Back to Fitness: Get the Vaccine! Hug Your Parents! Run with Your Friends!

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Gasp! Does this sound reckless?! Hug your parents? What are you, a complete menace to society?  Run with your friends? Don’t you know we are still in the middle of a pandemic?

At the end of February, I was fortunate enough to get my second dose of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. As a veterinarian, I was fortunate to be included in priority group 1B and jumped at the chance to take myself out of the local, national, and global COVID equation.

That’s right, for all intents and purposes, I am no longer in the COVID equation and it feels just amazing. Believing the science, I am extremely unlikely to contract the virus, and I am extremely unlikely to transmit the virus.  

The purpose of this article is to make a more sensible argument to those of you who are on the fence about getting one of the now three vaccines that are FDA-approved and available for administration. There has been a lot of poor communication about vaccination on both sides and as we talk about getting back to fitness, and back to normal, some real talk about this issue is needed.  I encourage you to read a great summary article about this point in the New York Times–www.nytimes.com/2021/01/18/briefing/donald-trump-pardon-phil-spector-coronavirus-deaths.html.  I will summarize and add my own color to this argument.  

One major problem is that our public health officials and politicians are underselling the vaccine.  “It’s not 100%.” “We aren’t certain if you can still spread the virus after you’ve been vaccinated.”  “We may still be wearing masks into 2022.” These are common repeating themes that we are all hearing these days as vaccinations are becoming more and more available, and themes that are not exactly making people jump out of their chairs and get in line for the shot.

The science, however, is amazingly encouraging. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are almost 100% effective against serious disease, and overall 95% effective after two doses. You really can’t beat that in a vaccination! Why aren’t we celebrating how amazingly effective these vaccines are? We want to get more people vaccinated, so why does this efficacy have to come with so much caution after all we have been through in 2020? These vaccines will not only save your life but will also stop this pandemic. Hell, yeah! Sign me up!  

Also, there is the topic of still being able to transmit the disease after you’ve been vaccinated. This is another message that we hear repeated – “we aren’t sure.” True, we don’t have a ton of specific data regarding this point for these new vaccines, but we do know a lot about how viruses work in our bodies. When we are successfully infected with a virus, it will replicate inside our bodies and then effuse out of our bodies to spread to the next person. If we are 95% protected, that means the virus really doesn’t have a good chance to successfully replicate and hence effuse out our bodies in mass numbers to continue the spread. What if our messaging was more like “once you are vaccinated, there is an extremely low chance that you can transmit this virus to someone else!” Hell, yeah! Sign me up! 

I get it. We don’t want vaccinated people to just stop wearing masks and social distancing as a whole. We need to keep working together to keep this virus at bay and part of that is wearing a mask and practicing responsible behaviors—even when you really don’t have to. I have zero issues continuing to wear a mask in public places and avoiding large gatherings, because we are not over this thing yet, and our country isn’t ready for a “show me your COVID-card” type of segregation of allowed behaviors.  

But as I walk into Harris Teeter and I really don’t care who grabbed that grocery cart before me—that feels great! When I’m pumping gas and I don’t hand sanitize right after—that feels great! When I run behind my friend on a single-track trail and I’m probably firmly in his “covid cloud,” and I have a 95% confidence level that I really don’t have to worry about it—that feels great! When I visit my parents, who are also vaccinated, and we can sit at a table together and have close conversation and share space in the kitchen and touch the same doorknobs, and I know that I have pretty much a 100% chance of not being the cause for their death because I gave them COVID—that really feels great.  

I’m 45. I’m in good shape because I love to exercise, but I was a bit worried about what would happen to me if I got COVID. What if I was one of those who got really sick? What about my family? Selfishly, what about my own health? Would my lungs betray me for the next year? Now I really do not have to worry about that, and it really does feel great.  

I understand that some folks are worried about how fast these vaccines were made. But folks, this is 2021. We have amazing technology. We had the DNA of the COVID virus decoded in a whopping 10 days after the first reported cases in Wuhan, China. We weren’t starting from scratch. What took most of this past year was testing for efficacy and safety, which have been impressive, to say the least. Also, think of all the other junk we put in our bodies—smoking, drinking, medications, air pollution, soda – known toxins and carcinogens that many of us expose our bodies to regularly.  Getting a COVID vaccine is most definitely not the worst thing I have done to my body! 

So, yeah, I’m gonna keep wearing my mask and acting responsibly, but I am also looking optimistically to a time where we can shake hands and talk to strangers without masks. And that time is going to come a heck of a lot sooner if we all go out and get that dang, amazing vaccine. 

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