On October 25, the New York Times released a visual story on their Instagram page with pictures and short blurbs of men and women who were making the choice not to get vaccinated. The stories discuss their reasons which ranged from hesitancy regarding the safety of the vaccine to fears about breastfeeding to religious reasons.
However, what they did not include were pictures and short blurbs about men and women who could not* get vaccinated. This is an important part of the puzzle and leaving out this piece of information glorifies the idea of choice, rather than the idea of social need.
Because you see, by choosing for non-medical purposes to refuse the vaccine, the unvaccinated are making a choice for those who can’t get the vaccine for medical purposes.
*The Times did release an opinion piece that went into more detail – but let’s be real, people get their news from social media
Barriers and Misinformation
Before I go further, I want to note that I’m very aware of the barriers that prevent people in the United States from getting the vaccine. Not having a car, living in a rural space, communities mistrusting medical providers for various reasons – I understand these. Additionally, there’s been a raft of misinformation – largely for political purposes – regarding the Coronavirus and Vaccines. I get it. Don’t at me.
Can’t is different than Won’t.
Recently I had a student break down in my class because his mask broke. He’s a student with underlying medical conditions already. As he descended into panic mode, he told me he was afraid he was going to die because he was only able to get one shot. He had a bad reaction to the first one, and the doctor said he couldn’t get the second. This wasn’t a choice that he and his family made – they tried to protect him. However, he’s only partially vaccinated because of necessity, not a choice.
The conversation regarding vaccination often revolves around those who are making a choice to remain unvaccinated. I think this is in an effort to humanize and understand the various reasons so many refuse the vaccine. However, there are people who actually can’t get vaccinated. Up until recently, that meant any child under the age of 12. It also means those who had an allergic reaction to the first shot, those who are undergoing chemotherapy, or those who have other underlying health conditions.
This is important because vaccination provides a shield for the most vulnerable people in the nation. While an unvaccinated person may feel comfortable taking risks with their own health and their family’s health; those who can’t get vaccinated are forced to remain in isolation. Telling the stories of the vaccine-hesitant glorifies that choice, and leaves out an incredibly important piece of the puzzle.
The unvaccinated are preventing children from going to school, preventing families from seeing their loved ones, and very literally may cause the death of another person.
The voices of the medically vulnerable deserve to be heard. Large news outlets like The Atlantic and The New York Times should do better, and flip the narrative.
And, if you aren’t vaccinated. You should get vaccinated.