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The decision on whether or not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is split across the country, with roughly half of all Americans fully vaccinated. In Wisconsin, 49.8% of the population has been fully vaccinated as of Aug. 11.
This statistic held true in my own household, too.
My husband chose to be vaccinated early on and received his first and second dose of Pfizer in March and April. My attitude was one of wait and see.
As a journalist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, my husband, James Causey, has been very outspoken regarding the need for the public to be vaccinated. He was concerned about my refusal, but he respected my position.
He would, however, drop frequent hints about all the things we wouldn’t be able to do if I didn’t get the shot. He’d say things like, “We could take a cruise for our upcoming anniversary, but only vaccinated people get to do that.”
I admit, I was one of the holdouts against the vaccine. But not for the reasons some might think.
My reasoning had nothing to do with distrusting the government because of previous violations against Black bodies like the Tuskegee experiment. Nor did it hinge on conspiracy theories about the mark of the beast or the government’s attempt to thin the population.
For me, the decision not to get vaccinated right away simply had to do with the virus being just that — a virus. Meaning that viruses don’t have cures. The virus simply evolves, as we see with the Delta variant, and continues to mutate. Over time, our immune systems will continue to adapt to ward off this virus like it has with so many others.
The vaccine is not the end-all, be-all. But it will help.
I don’t receive the flu vaccine for the same reasoning. If I have to take a vaccine yearly to have only partial protection because the flu vaccine doesn’t cover all strains — because it can’t — then I will continue to practice good hygiene habits like frequently washing my hands, using a napkin to open public doors and coughing in my elbow, to stay as safe as possible.
Even with the best precautionary measures, we can still get sick. I came down with COVID-19 in November. It was traced to a family member who wasn’t as careful. A Thursday night Packer game being shown at a bar was worth the risk to them. So, my mom, my husband and I were all impacted by someone else’s choice.
COVID-19 is highly contagious and very aggressive, sometimes deadly, especially to those with compromised immunity. So, as the delta variant and other strains began to emerge, I decided to get vaccinated. The latest information says 83% of new COVID-19 cases are the delta variant strain.
I received the Pfizer vaccine in July and had my second dose Aug. 5. There were no noticeable side effects other than arm soreness both times. I didn’t ever feel sick or tired or nauseous.
What does make me feel sick about the vaccine is the carelessness people have gone back to because a vaccine is available. Super large gatherings, lax hygienic measures and a disregard for people’s personal space should not be back on the table. Disregard for the greater good of all of us is what is keeping us in this mess.
The vaccine is not a cure for this virus, and because we are rushing back to business as usual, we are seeing rising COVID-19 infection rates and deaths.
I still practice social distancing, and as much as I love my Milwaukee Bucks, there’s no way I would have attended such a massive event with over 300,000 people like the parade held in their honor.
I still wear a mask in all enclosed spaces like retail and grocery stores. I wear gloves when I pump gas. I still wipe down grocery carts and keep my own wipes in the car to wipe off my steering wheel and door handle upon entering my vehicle. I remove my shoes in my hallway and wash my hands immediately upon entering my home.
Coming from a health care background and currently finishing up my health care degree, I did many of these things routinely before COVID, so the transition wasn’t as hard for me.
My 81-year-old grandmother, Mae, is home-bound, and we have to go in and out of her house frequently to check on her and help her with daily activities. I don’t want to be the reason she gets sick. COVID might not be as bad for me, but it might be debilitating for her. She has a right to be protected from whoever has to enter her home.
Ultimately, I decided to get vaccinated because the vaccine is a valuable tool in our COVID-19 toolbox, along with smart distancing, regular testing and masking up. While all of us have the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated, we don’t have the right to infringe on another person’s right to be safe.
And if I can do my part to slow down the freight train that is COVID, then I am willing to take one for the team. We all need to do our part to quell this virus.
Damia S. Causey is a columnist for Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service who is currently studying to become a registered nurse.