There was once a time, when I was younger, that making decisions for the communal good seemed to be easier. Science appeared to move forward with clarity and precision, without the type of debate regarding personal choice and freedom that we are seeing during the COVID pandemic.
Nurses may remember stories of medications that were devastations, whether it was the thalidomide embryopathy that led to shocking birth defects in over 10,000 newborns between 1957 and 1962, or the Vioxx recall after an alarming incidence of heart attacks and strokes. Medication recalls and changes seemed to move forward with ease and rapidity, as did science.
Whether it was adapting the speed of moving vehicles, or the ease with which we accepted the use of seat belts to decrease vehicular injury and death on roadways, humans accepted modification with alacrity.
But now we have hesitation, anger, debate, even rage and distrust of the very experts who should be guiding us.
Similar Societal Issues
When the US Surgeon General determined tar in cigarette smoke to be a carcinogen and secondhand smoke to be equally harmful, smoking was banned in restaurants and bars across the United States. I remember smokers being displeased with the change, but I do not remember people being shot when asked to extinguish a cigarette, as we have seen regarding the application of masks for entering retail stores.
During the pandemic, personal choice seemed to take priority over community. Why? Have we become that selfish?
Why do we still have millions — yes, millions — of American adults saying "no" to science when the communal good appears to be at stake?
A virus does not care why you are ambiguous or indecisive regarding a vaccine. A virus will find the unprotected. The Delta variant is particularly good at doing this — spectacularly so. It does not care if you live in a rural area, if you are young or old, or if you remain undecided regarding the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines.
During the previous week, Florida, Texas, and California led the United States in new COVID cases as predominantly unvaccinated patients infected with the Delta variant topped 50,000, setting a record for new caseloads. The CDC also upgraded its mask requirement, stating that even vaccinated adults should wear masks when in crowded indoor spaces, particularly to protect unvaccinated younger children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
Breakthrough infections have occurred, although these are thought to be very rare. The World Health Organization is urging countries not to panic and to hold off on third booster injections at this time, particularly as many countries have not been able to receive vaccines as promised by COVAX. Further mutations will be coming, as much of the globe is still unprotected, the same Washington Post article explains.
Are you sitting on the fence regarding a COVID vaccination? Please consider climbing off.
Reasons for vaccine refusal are complex, but by the time you are ill, it is too late. Physicians have filled sound bites with stories of hospitalized COVID patients begging for vaccines shortly before intubation, or of patients asking to text a family member with regrets about not getting a vaccine when they had the opportunity. Do not repeat the mistake of these unfortunate patients.
Their message is clear: They would change their path and decision if they could.
There was a time when we worried less about personal choice and more about communal good. That time may have passed, unfortunately. But we should still wear our seatbelts, refrain from ingesting harmful pharmaceuticals while pregnant*, and avoid blowing smoke in the faces of fellow diners. We should also mask up, wash our hands, mind our distances, and get a vaccine. Seriously. The time for ambiguity and indecisiveness has passed. This is a time for science. We need only to listen.
*Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to receive the coronavirus vaccine unless the shot is specifically contraindicated by their obstetrician.
Let us know if you agree or disagree with this post. Is a vaccine mandate in your future?
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Any views expressed above are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of WebMD or Medscape.
Cite this: Diane M. Goodman. The Time for Ambiguity and Indecisiveness Has Passed: It's Time to Get Vaccinated - Medscape - Aug 12, 2021.