How We Talk to Each Other About Vaccination

Thinking behind the tweets

Put simply, I wanted to share my good feeling about the progress the country is making because of the vaccines and vaccination—and my personal gratitude for no longer feeling the daily anxiety that one wrong move could lead to hospitalization or even death.

I have hesitated tweeting about my own situation because I’m mindful of how many Americans have yet to be vaccinated. The last thing I wanted to do was boast about getting vaccinated, as if the larger reality of 550k+ deaths from COVID-19 was not the tragic specter that hangs over the arrival of vaccines and the remarkable acceleration of vaccinations—as if we could all somehow “move on” from this.

We are far from coming to grips with what has happened. I can tell you when I got my first dose, I was surprised that my first response was an overwhelming feeling of sadness—a wave of survivor’s guilt, of “Why am I still alive when so many others have died?”

What I came to feel after the second dose some weeks back was, not relief exactly, but an emerging awareness that I really am unlikely to face death because of this terrible plague—and a yearning for others close to me (and everyone else) to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The Biden Administration’s success at delivering 100 million doses in just 58 days has been a reason for optimism and hope. So is the new goal of 200 million in the first 100 days.

Until this weekend when I gave my elderly mother and aunt a hug, and when my newly vaccinated wife and I decided to eat in a large, airy, socially distanced restaurant (wearing a mask until we got to our table), we hadn’t really changed our pandemic life. We still haven’t had a single friend visit our home. We still don’t—and won’t—go into public places without wearing a mask.

So that’s why I decided to go ahead and share my optimism about a first glimpse of light. And my gratitude to science and scientists.

What have I learned by the responses? There are a lot of lovely people who shared their congratulations and good tidings—and their own optimism about better days head. There are a lot of people rightly angry about the continuing selfish refusal to put on a damn mask—and their uncertainty about when they’ll get vaccinated.

And there are a lot of people who, understandably, are likely to carry a residue of anger and trauma for quite a while. They are not about to give any of us a break for the horror our country has suffered; I don’t blame them.

Within minutes after my first tweet, it quickly became clear that I needed to add a tweet about mask-wearing, even though I assumed people wouldn’t think I was dumb enough or selfish enough to get dosed, then just toss my masks.

As people correctly noted, we’re not out of this yet. There are worrisome new variants that we don’t fully know if the current vaccines will guard against. And we have to continue listening to the CDC and its guidelines meant to minimize the spread and keep us from another wave.

But I also hope that we can pause now and then to acknowledge the progress we’re making and the achievements that got us here. If it’s only doom, gloom and anger toward careless fellow citizens—and the crimes of the unforgivable former guy and his reckless accomplices—then the worst among us get to call the shots. And we know how badly that’s worked out for us.

Have you or someone you love gotten vaccinated? I’d love it if you’d share your experience here. And I hope you’ll share this post with others you know who you’d like to join the conversation.

We have the ability to create the world we want, but we can’t do it alone. We have to do it together. That’s why I’ve kept commenting open to everyone, to learn from each other, at least for a while longer. If you want to continue being a part of the dialogue, I hope you’ll consider becoming a paid subscriber.