COLUMN: Understanding the vaccine

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Leave it to Americans to spoof their scary disease du jour. Several viral videos have satirized the coronavirus and the vaccines and other “woke” adaptations in dark if also hilarious ways. But the one that made me laugh out loud was “Coming Next Year,” by comedian and viral-content creator (yes, there is such a thing) Tyler Fischer.

I recommend it for your sanity and edification. What better way to wrap up another dreary year than with a humorous look at our increasingly absurd expressions of political correctness or, in today’s vernacular, “wokeness”?

The coronavirus vaccine is just one of Fischer’s targets. In brief, a guy trying to earn passage into an unidentified building must provide proof that he has submitted to a laundry list of government mandates. His proof of having received numerous booster shots consists of multiple Band-Aids crossing his arms and torso.

Suffice to say, Fischer’s view of our future is full of busyness attending to socially approved and government-enforced commandments and an inevitable loss of freedom. This slide into servitude began with the vaccine and escalated with the various employment-based mandates that followed. Some people feel so strongly about not requiring a vaccine that the Supreme Court plans to hold a special hearing on Jan. 7 to consider the legality of two White House initiatives to curb the pandemic.

The court has promised to move quickly on the two questions -- a vaccine-or-testing mandate for larger employers of more than 100 people and a vaccination requirement for health-care workers in institutions that receive federal funding. Government projections are that 22 million people would get vaccinated and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations if both are allowed to stand. More’s the haste given recent predictions that 60% of Americans will be infected with the dominant omicron variant by March.

For the record, I’m all shot up -- two vaccines and a booster. The first injection gave me a sore arm; the second kept me in bed for 10 hours. When my body aches suddenly ceased close to cocktail hour, I popped out of bed, said, “That was weird,” and poured myself a glass of wine. The booster? Nada.

It’s abundantly clear that vaccines at the very least help reduce the intensity of covid-19. The booster helps even more. Most vaccinated people evade infection entirely, probably in part because they also take other precautions, such as distancing and masking. Those who’ve died of covid over the past several months were almost exclusively unvaccinated.

All of this is known to nearly everyone by now -- and the scientific evidence has been convincing enough for me to endure a few hours of inconvenience. Beats dying. Yet, only 62% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and many are rabidly opposed to getting a shot. “This is war,” I’ve heard people say on both sides of the issue. Sensibly speaking, are you people insane?

Still, I do understand the revulsion toward government mandates. We’re all a bit anti-establishment, aren’t we? Americans didn’t become obstreperous just recently. Our warring spirit and a predilection to oppose authority precedes our arrival to these shores. We’re all rebels by virtue of most of us having crossed the pond, so to speak. Saying no may not be wise in some circumstances, but as a countercultural posture, we customarily view dissent as a basic right.

To the anti-vaccine contingent, a vaccine mandate is tantamount to a violation of one’s autonomy. Our bodies, ourselves is more than a book title. No one is entitled to enter my temple without my permission. Case closed. And yet: How can some people see the vaccine as a gift and others view it as a toxin contrived for dubious purposes? How do we bridge this gap?

It appears that we need a new tack. Convincing others to follow the majority’s lead requires diplomacy and empathy rather than finger-pointing and shaming. President Biden’s recent warning to the unvaccinated as more or less deserving to get sick is hardly helpful.

The challenge for 2022 is how to reconcile these two opposing views.

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Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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