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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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An Untold Story

I am unvaccinated. Am I the only such first-person voice here? I am not an anti-vaxxer or anti-masker. I am not anti-science or anti-social. What I am is a member of a neglected minority in the U.S.: those with underlying health conditions.

From the outset, it’s been an accepted fact that a percentage of the population would not be eligible for some COVID vaccines. By not approving any of the conventional vaccines in use elsewhere in the world, the U.S. has increased that percentage significantly. By extension, the billions of people worldwide who received conventional COVID vaccines are, as far as the U.S. is concerned, unvaccinated.

Unlike the stereotype of the unvaccinated, I go above and beyond the most stringent guidelines, living in virtual solitary confinement and double masking and maintaining strict social distance when I have to go out. Contrary to the stigma attached to the unvaccinated, I do not pose the slightest risk to anyone else, only they to me: Anyone unmasked—vaccinated or unvaccinated, including children under 12—can be a silent carrier.

I want a COVID vaccine. I’ve had every vaccine in the book, from the first polio vaccine in the 1950s to rabies to yellow fever, so to now be among the unvaccinated is incredibly ironic. Over the years, however, I’ve accumulated a number of severe allergies and conditions that require me to avoid one medication in favor of another. Tylenol instead of Advil, tetracycline instead of penicillin. This is standard medical practice, but when it comes to mandating the COVID vaccine these protocols are ignored.

Given my history of anaphylaxis and heart surgery, my doctor and I decided I should wait for a conventional, inactivated, whole-virus vaccine to be available. I’ve received them all my life, including this year’s flu shot, with no adverse reactions. We continue to wait but are becoming discouraged as the government continues its current narrow-minded course. I understand the frustration of frontline workers—how many millions more Americans could we get on board if we added conventional vaccines to the mix?

So sign me up for a COVID vaccine, “a” being the operative word. Give me a choice of options, so I can select one consistent with my medical history. Yes, I could go across the border to Mexico, where Covaxin is available—from one of the world’s largest and most respected vaccine manufacturers—but that would still not confer the coveted title of “vaccinated” here in the U.S.

At the very least, I hope Americans will adjust their stereotype of the unvaccinated until the FDA allows access to appropriate medical treatment for all who seek it.



2 thoughts on “An Untold Story”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Your feelings have been on my mind since I read it. I see you. I hear you. You are not invisible. I am sorry you cannot get the vaccine, as it is clear, so are you. I am sad- and I am angry- that you have to live mostly in isolation because of that. I will speak for myself, although I believe that most of us feel the same way. When we rant about the unvaccinated, we actually are ranting for you, not at you, because of the vulnerability it causes for folks like you and little kids and of course, but lesser risk, the rest of us. The vast majority of unvaccinated do not have a medical reason to not get vaccinated. There are a number of reasons, not one single one, but it is clear that almost all are not wearing your shoes. And I am angry about that. And I will continue to discuss with people who have not been vaccinated and in safe spaces, I will rant; I say safe spaces, because I do not want my words to drive anyone further away. Please do not feel like any of this is aimed at you. No one is pointing a finger at you. We are pointing fingers because you (and we) should not be having the numbers of cases and resource use (look at Idaho) and deaths that we do. If someone levies criticism (and it happens all the time) to an identity group to which I belong, I get to look at it and decide if it includes me or not. In this case, all the unvaccinated pieces in this forum are not about nor aimed at you. I join with you in hopes that a better option becomes available for you. And I thank you for pointing to vaccines that are elsewhere that you could get. We can all advocate for those counting as being vaccinated here (and I have a friend, whose mother was vaccinated in Mexico and she was able to travel here, so I need to do more work on figuring this out) or being available here. Be well.

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