Grace Manning ’21
After nearly a year of waiting for the light at the end of the pandemic’s long tunnel in the form of a vaccine, we fear, and question being vaccinated. This fear is not so much due to a distrust of the vaccine itself or to a hesitation because of possible side effects, it is an aftershock of living through the pandemic. Our society has become so steeped in and saturated with unknowns and with a lack of control over our own lives and how we live them, that we seek authority over the things we can control. Friends and family who have been isolated for months, now make arguments against getting vaccinated, citing questionable news sources or conspiracy theorist acquaintances to subdue their own fear of losing even more say in their lives.
It is frightening, for many, to hear people refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, principally because they may be complicit in allowing the virus to continue to dominate every aspect of our lives, or more tragically, may play a part in the deaths of more people. However, there is a psychological aspect to their refusal that tends to be ignored. In conversations I’ve had with friends or family members of mine who are skeptical of the vaccine, they seem to be rebelling more against the society that forces them to be vaccinated, than against the vaccine itself. They feel that they have lost their sense of individuality, their healthcare freedoms and control over how they choose to live their lives in a democratic country. They have grown tired of being told what to do in every sense of the phrase: when to go outside and for how long, when to work or go to school and where, where it is permissible to shop and what forms of entertainment and socialization are acceptable. Take these regulations independently of the virus, and we are living in an authoritarian state. Of course, we can’t take these regulations without considering the virus and our desire to protect those who are vulnerable, but I would argue that anti-vaxxers see a troubling removal of freedom over their own bodies and choices, when they hear of mandatory vaccines.
The seeking of excuses and reasons not to get the vaccine only supports this argument. The “side effects” mentioned are often utterly baseless and there is a gaping disconnect when it comes to actual facts behind these theories. This suggests to me a desperate grasping at even the slightest possibility that would allow someone to justify not getting vaccinated. Based on accounts I’ve heard personally, it is a way of revolting against what has become a conformist society in which, because of our desire to subdue the virus and to slow its progress, we do what we are told without question. I agree that this kind of society is a dangerous one, and that, over the course of this year, we have been trying to safely walk the line between a total loss of control and the very human impulse to help and protect those who are most vulnerable. However, the context here is an essential one and cannot be separated from the response. We are compelled to give up certain freedoms and parts of our individuality in order to do what is compassionate and right. The “greater good” is a phrase we’ve heard over and over these past few months, in emphasis of the fact that we are sacrificing that which we, as a society, have always held to the utmost importance, because we are responsible for every member of our public. While those against the vaccine would argue we are losing individual freedoms, we can conversely choose to see this as an opportunity to become more communal and connected to those around us.