Saturday, September 23, 2023

Choosing vaccines


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Story by William Chappell / Contributing Writer

On Feb. 29, 2020, Nashville Soccer Club played its inaugural match as a member of Major League Soccer, squaring off against Atlanta Football Club at Nissan Stadium. I was there, with a group of friends— we’d gotten overpriced tacos before and bundled up for a cold night game on the extra leap year day of 2020.

I don’t like soccer. But I had decided to go to the match because I thought it would be my last opportunity to do a public activity with friends for quite some time. I had a kidney transplant in June of 2017 and had watched with trepidation as a highly transmissible virus spread from China to the world in the first quarter of 2020.

By the end of February, the writing was on the wall to those who were paying attention: it was only a matter of time before the pandemic found its way to our shores.

A few weeks later, when COVID-19 finally reached U.S. soil, most of America seemed to be caught unaware.

Since then, I’ve lived a cloistered life. I haven’t eaten indoors at a restaurant or been inside with people outside my household other than a handful of occasions— mostly for doctors’ visits and to receive two doses of the vaccine and the recently approved third booster shot.

There has been a lot of rhetoric about people living in fear, but this couldn’t be further from the truth for me. I’m not afraid of being sick. In the past decade, I’ve spent dozens of nights in the hospital, been hobbled by injuries and laid low by chronic illness.

I’ve dealt with it before; I will deal with it again. I am not scared; by forgoing normal activities and socializing I am making a choice.

I am choosing not to risk a weeks-long stay in the hospital. I am choosing not to endanger the transplanted kidney that I received after waiting four years and eight months on thrice-weekly dialysis sessions. My new kidney was selflessly donated to me upon the death of a stranger, and I respect that donation and my life by behaving prudently.

It is time for other people to make a choice.

With the announcement of an executive order requiring all businesses of over 100 employees to require vaccination or weekly testing, President Joe Biden is giving 80 million vaccine-eligible, unvaccinated Americans a choice. They may take the lifesaving medicine or shoulder the onus of a heavy testing regimen to keep their fellow citizens safe.

This is the strongest and most decisive action of President Biden’s tenure so far. It should also include provisions to support workers who experience severe side effects after vaccination to allow them to miss work without repercussion. Then, the excuses of those who are vaccine-hesitant and/or vaccine-resistant will be fully obviated.

Hundreds of millions of jabs are in arms, the Food and Drug Administration full approval has been granted for the Pfizer vaccine, with the same expected for Moderna’s. It is time for America to turn the corner on this pandemic.

Freedom is important but using it as a cudgel to defend personal irresponsibility subverts the very notion of freedom itself. The writers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were strongly rooted in enlightenment thinking. Enlightenment philosophers believed in a social contract where citizens had certain obligations as members of society while the society had reciprocal obligations to them.

Somewhere along the way, Americans lost this thread. Now, rather than uniting in the face of adversity, certain elements in the media and political establishment will sow division on any subject to mobilize outrage for votes or views.

It is sad that Biden has been forced to compel citizens to do the right thing to protect public health, but his hand was forced by cynical, pernicious and selfish actors. His choice shows conviction and determination to stop the needless sickness and death that has dogged this nation for more than 18 months.

Now, 80 million citizens have the freedom to make their choice. Take the free, safe shot or bear the cost of proving fitness to interact safely with coworkers and customers. As someone who has chosen to curtail my freedom for a year and a half for my own protection, it is a welcome development that everyone now has consequences to weigh in their choices about this deadly pandemic.

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