I developed my fear of needles as a kindergartener in the early 1950s. With my classmates, I waited in a slow-moving line to receive the Salk polio vaccine. When I later complained to my parents about a sore arm, they commiserated—but also assured me that the soreness would pass, while polio would be forever. I thus learned that vaccines are vital to my well-being.
That being said, the COVID-19 vaccine still causes me some anxiety. The speed with which it was developed—and the lack of knowledge about its long-term effects—worries me. Yet as I sit in my living room, the same setting in which I have sat for the past ten months of isolation, I realize that I have limited choices: to be vaccinated and, hopefully, become immune to COVID, or not to be vaccinated and, sadly, continue to live a life of isolation and vulnerability.
What has convinced me to embrace the vaccine is watching people I respect—Dr. Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and front-line caregivers—receive their injections in front of a live television audience. I have not seen any eyes squeeze shut in pain when the needle enters their arm, and I have not heard people cry out. Except in a handful of cases, I have also not learned of people experiencing ill effects from either of the currently available vaccines.
Although I am a humanities person—someone who acquires her lessons about life and gains her insights into people from literature and theatre—I am also a woman who values scientists and their awe-inspiring research. Scientists, working independently and collaboratively, have created these vaccines; they work not for self-glory but to win a war against a formidable opponent—COVID. They do their research for senior citizens like me, adults like my children, and teenagers like my great-niece. How can I turn my back to their efforts? How can I refuse a vaccine that might end the nightmare that defines current life?
My paternal grandfather died in the 1918 flu pandemic, leaving behind a 23-year-old wife and two-year-old son—my father. Had a vaccine been available to him, he might have lived, and the history of my family would have been a different one.
To honor scientists, to honor Grandfather Edelstein, and to give myself and those around me protection from COVID, I will take the vaccine.