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Shots All Around!

My daughter got her first Covid vaccine shot over the weekend! Lots of her friends have also received theirs or have appointments coming up soon, and most of her older relatives have been boosted. We are all so happy and relieved that we can look forward to celebrating winter holidays and birthdays indoors with friends and family this year. We've waited so long for this!

And it was free! And, according to her, it didn't even hurt!


She felt a little bit of soreness at the injection site for a little while, and she was very sleepy all weekend, which I understand is a good sign that her immune system is working hard to gear up in response to the vaccine. We are very pleased, and our extended family is feeling major relief and hope for a more relaxed, pleasant winter.

Michigan is having a particularly rough go with the Covid at this moment in time, with outbreaks driven by Michigan's preteens and teens, and in these dire circumstances, it is so good to have a real reason to hope. We are about to enjoy the freedom to spend time with others again, because we have so many loved ones who are 100% vaccinated, who we can trust to have the courage to accept reality and the heart to still care about themselves and others after the last difficult couple of years, and care enough to put those feelings into action. Within this terrible plague, we can at least hold our vaccinated dear ones close without fear, in a little (but expanding) bubble of safe and caring love.

We're even entertaining the hope that we can make fun plans for going out in public again! Now that we are all vaccinated, which means we aren't likely to end up needing to hog a desperately scarce hospital bed or causing a loved one to die miserably or passing along a school outbreak, we can feel fine about going out to the movies, joining crowds at a festive zoo event, eating sushi indoors, visiting a cat cafe, and even having small birthday parties again. Oh, and going to the salon! And maybe, once community spread and heavy strain on the local hospitals ease up, I can even schedule author events to promote my novel and support my local bricks-and-mortar, paper-and-ink book shops. 

As a historical novelist and a fan of historical films and books, I am all too horribly aware of how plagues play out, how conspiracy theories about "government control" lead masses of people to early graves, how Darwinian selection does not successfully "clean out" the people who are likely to believe conspiracies that cause their own demise, because most human beings remain vulnerable to the influence of whatever their own family, friends, and trusted media sources tell them, no matter how patently insane or dangerous to their own children. Humans evolved to need social acceptance and to fear social isolation, and nefarious political actors are hyping up fears over real concerns (yes, vaccines have rare side effects; yes, there have been times when medical professionals and government officials of every political leaning have lied) and exaggerating them so much that they appear larger than dangers that are actually much bigger (yes, everyone is going to get Covid, and your risks of disability and death are far higher from not getting a vaccine than from getting one; yes, shady internet trolls and screaming heads on the old-people's TV programs are far likelier to lie to you and scam you than your doctor or your local health department). Every time something scary and confusing happens, it's an opportunity for bad actors like scam artists, cult leaders, and corrupt politicians to jump in and offer to "rescue" people from a possibly real but small danger and steer them straight into a larger problem.

It's like when people get into car accidents because they are startled by a bug inside of the car while they're driving. The danger of steering your fast-moving car into the side of a Dollar Store is obviously larger than the danger of being bitten by a tiny spider, but humans are silly things whose fear buttons can easily be hijacked into a reaction that, in isolation, might have been rational (it's good to avoid spider bites) yet in a certain context (driving a car) causes senseless death. And you don't have to be stupid or uneducated to fall victim to an irrational fear that sends you hopping from the pot into the fire.

Risk factors for getting hoodwinked into a conspiracy include feelings of loneliness and abandonment, and our culture of non-support for parents has worn many parents of young kids into the perfect hapless victims of this mindset.

When communities around parents threaten to disapprove or even shun them if they vaccinate their kids, many parents will not have the gumption to do it, even though they know factually that leaving their kids at the mercy of Covid, which nobody will escape in the long run, is far more dangerous than getting them a shot. The mental math is: If I vaccinate my child and social harm results, or a rare side effect occurs, I can be blamed and shamed for that. If I please my abusive and deluded community by not vaccinating my child and my child gets Covid, it will be an act of God that my dumb-dumb relatives will never blame me for, and maybe they will even shower my family with the love that we desperately need, out of pity for our illness.

Ugh.

Sadness. 

As a result, only a quarter of my daughter's peers will be allowed to receive the benefit of lifesaving vaccination in time for Christmas. Most of them will be okay anyway; some will suffer needlessly; some will become permanently disabled; some will lose family members to preventable Covid complications or to a lack of medical care while the hospitals overflow. There is nothing I can do about that, because human beings are tragically irrational, but I can still be thankful that my family is more proactive and free to do the right thing than most, allowing us to escape the fate of this next cycle of misery that will go down in history as a great tragedy for many other families.

And if my family can influence even one other family to get that vaccine faster and save some lives and some qualities of life this holiday season, I'm willing to risk the judgment of speaking this truth. 

I'm excited about so many possibilities opening back up for me and my family personally again, but most of all I'm excited about the relief from the daily dread that my family will become involved in an outbreak at work and school. I know the outbreaks will continue for some time, especially while other parents remain paralyzed by fears of false rumors and unfair social condemnation. And while that suffering runs its course, at least I won't have to worry about my own child getting seriously ill or accidentally contributing to the orphaning of one of her friends. No child deserves that, no matter how helpless their parents are.

Our kids have given up so much of their childhoods already, and at my house, the buck stops here. This is their shot at freedom, their shot at safety from the threats of MIS-C and Long Covid and myocarditis and other Covid complications that are far more common than rare vaccine side effects and far more dangerous to them than some old boomer relative's passive-aggressive comments at Thanksgiving dinner. This is their shot at avoiding the trauma of losing any more grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents to a preventable, agonizing, and lonely early death. This is their shot at breathing easy again. This is their shot at a full life.

I'm so grateful that I have been able to provide my daughter with this marvelous ticket to relief and joy before Christmas. And I hope that everyone in your life, ages five and up, can get their shot too!

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