The sense of relief I felt when both my parents received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine in February is difficult to put into words. My parents are in their 70s, active and in good health.
But there was always a voice in my head that feared for the worst. Could one ill-fated trip to church, the grocery store or the gym put them in danger?
I couldn’t help but think of the half-million Americans, including about 5,000 Kansans, who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic – all of them members of somebody’s family. Nearly 90% of those who have died through early March were 60 or older.
Now that my parents have received their second shots, my inner voice is starting to go quiet. (I received my own shots in March and April.)
Although there are differences among them, all three of the approved coronavirus vaccines, including the Moderna vaccine my parents got, have proven extraordinarily effective in trials at preventing hospitalizations and death from COVID-19. With that comes newfound peace of mind. We’re starting to think about family events again after months of seeing each other in outdoor settings while wearing masks.
The pessimist in me can’t help but worry about putting too much faith in vaccines bringing the pandemic to a close. News reports about the spread of variants that might be resistant to existing vaccines sound ominous, even if it’s too early to tell how concerned we should be. A significant number of Americans still remain cautious about getting the vaccine, even though the number of people eager to get vaccinated at first opportunity is rapidly increasing.
There are perhaps some good reasons for people to be wary. The shots are new, and maybe it’s only human to want to take a wait-and-see approach. Most notably with mask wearing, public health officials have at times changed their guidance during the pandemic, which may have undermined trust in some quarters. The virus became such a political football that it can be hard to keep track of where science ends and politics begins anymore.
Despite such reservations, this moment still feels like a miracle after the life-altering disruptions of the past year. It offers the promise of a life that’s shifting back toward normal, if not yet normalcy.
But anybody who watched receivers drop the prayers launched by Patrick Mahomes in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl loss knows that miracles don’t catch themselves. Science has thrown us a Hail Mary and we need to haul it in and take it over the goal line. Public health experts say getting as many people vaccinated as possible is crucial to finally beating the pandemic.
But there’s a collective adaptive challenge at play here too. After a divisive period in which so many of us have sacrificed, the rollout of the shots provides an opportunity to energize others.
We should do everything we can to remind ourselves and one another that every jab is, ultimately, after any side effects ebb, a joy. It’s our ticket back to sporting events, concerts, crowded dine-in restaurants, parades, theaters and travel. Our pass to gathering with friends or attending family reunions without fear, shame or guilt. To the kind of human exchanges that buoy the spirit and can’t be lost to an unstable internet connection.
The end appears in sight for this strange half-life that kept so many of us within our houses and households for far longer than imagined. But there’s a miracle to be had, if enough of us choose it. I’ll look forward to the celebrations that come next.
A version of this article appears in the Spring 2021 issue of The Journal, a publication of the Kansas Leadership Center. To learn more about KLC, visit http://kansasleadershipcenter.org. Order your copy of the magazine at the KLC Store or subscribe to the print edition.
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