Vaccines are not devoid of risk. We simply cannot know or predict the long term effects of the vaccine yet, as that will take years. (Remember thalidomide?)
Further, I do not believe it should be called a vaccine as it does not in fact stop you from getting Covid, especially the omicron variant. I think we should have called it a prophylactic or pre-treatment or some other word invoking “you might still get this but it won’t kill you.”
ALL THAT BEING SAID, the risks of the vaccine are far outweighed by the risk of Covid because NO-ONE can predict whether or not they will get a severe case. Covid’s very terror seems to lie in the fact that, even though some people with comorbidities have a clearly increased risk of death, even healthy people can succumb.
There are risks and consequences to everything. Historically pandemics have made people crazy and even violent because we switch into a fear-based mode very easily courtesy of evolution.
I will not lie to you and tell you that there are no risks to the vaccine. But I will tell you that all of my doctors and nurses took it and were adamant that I have both doses and a booster. I may require another booster in the future. And every single time I will choose the vaccine.
One of my students wrote to me in his introduction that he nearly died of Covid. He caught it twice before they lowered the age requirement for the vaccine. The first time he literally almost died and the second time he had a mild but symptomatic case. He is fully vaccinated now but the trauma of the first infection stays with him.
Get your vaccine, people. I don’t believe in government mandates or forcing people to get a vaccine. Dominion over your own body is a sacred natural right and should not be breached. But we all need to take a step back from the fear and look at the actual numbers.
Vaccines work (even if they don’t inoculate you) and will absolutely save your life. The risks are FAR outweighed by the benefits.
This is my one and only rant on this subject. I believe it is time to say that people have taken their chances one way or the other and step back from the precipice we are on as a society that increasingly divides people and teaches them to hate each other.
Get your vaccine. Or don’t. But it’s time to stop the fear mongering and acknowledge that it is safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death. Long term data will not matter to you if you die of Covid right now.
What do you do when a dream you've had since childhood seeps out through the holes in the windows and walls to return to the blank and unyielding ether?
This is not a Langston Hughes reference. I genuinely want to know.
The years do not wait for our dreams to catch up. They roll on and on in a procession-- sometimes too slow, sometimes too quick-- seemingly arranged by vast forces far beyond us.
I clearly remember making my sister do basic algebra from a red book my grandfather found at a yard-sale. would make her sit still in her desk and deliver elaborate lessons unfettered by reality. On some level, I was always walking towards my classroom.
Similarly, I clearly remember the conversation that I thought would define my life. Once again, my sister was listening to an elaborate lecture largely unfettered by reality, but this time, it was the summer of 1998. I was 18 and she was 16 and we were riding the best summer of our lives. She came out to our family, and then she came down to visit me in Savannah; I was lonelier than I realized and she was desperate to carve out some room to breathe. We spent most of our time at Kevin Barry's listening to Irish traditional music or out on Tybee walking along the beach at midnight, watching the Milky Way spin out into infinity over the restless grey eyes of the Atlantic.
Counting shooting stars from the pier, I could not know that in less than a year, friends I made that summer would introduce me to other friends who would introduce me to my husband. I would bring him home after an epic date fueled by driving the wrong way on I-95 (let me be clear; we traveled in the wrong direction, not the wrong lane), stolen vodka, and the sheer fuck-it-all-ness of the late 90s. We vowed to keep it no-strings, to avoid a real relationship, to never say I love you and mean it even when we slipped up and said it anyway.
Naturally, he would never leave and the second half of my life would start.
But that night it was just me and my sister and we were young and dumb enough to be talking about the future as if it were a thing we could hold in our hands as easily as we held it in our heads.
"Of course I want kids. I want five of them." I was dead serious. I didn't want a baby; I wanted a brood. I dreamed of a witch's cottage in the woods and barefoot little toddlers running around with giant, gentle dogs.
"You'll open a shop," my sister said, laughing. "You'll call it 'Melissa's Spare Cats and Kids,' and live in a canyon." This was oddly specific, true, but it was because we were listening to Annie Lennox do Joni Mitchell.
Annie sits you down to eat
She always makes you welcome in
Cats and babies 'round her feet
And all are fat and none are thin
None are thin and all are fat
She may bake some brownies today
Saying you are welcome back
She is another canyon lady
"More like a holler," I said, not realizing that 23 years later barely a trace of my Blue Ridge Appalachian accent would remain.
"But Melissa," you may interrupt me here. "Things happened the way they were supposed to happen all along. You still got your kids; you just took a different road."
And let me be the first to tell you that I love my kids. My life has been infinitely enriched by their presence in my life. I did not know I could hold love and fear simultaneously in my hand like a baby bird's wings beating at my fingers.
Still, things did not happen the way they were supposed to happen, not even a little.
All around me, people were having children, and I was sure I would be one of them. I watched a friend who swore they'd never get pregnant wind up with two children while I was busy peeing on a stick every. single. month. and sitting on the toilet sobbing because one little pink line was missing.
I gained the immeasurable blessing of three beautiful nephews that I had a really hard time bonding with because of my own trauma. If I couldn't have kids, nobody could have kids. And if they did, I was going to ignore it. Mother's Day did not exist. The nightmare before Christmas was getting my period a week late when I was just so sure my wait was finally over.
Eventually, the grim reality began to sink in. This thing I wanted and needed more than air, more than life, more than me, was never going to happen. My husband and I were never going to have a child together. All that would be left of our intense love would be a gravestone with two names. If we were lucky, our nephews might visit us in the nursing home, but in general it was always going to be 1998 with two crazy kids locking onto each other with all of the power and none of the grace of a homing beacon.
We went through the motions of fertility testing, knowing we would never be able to afford a positive outcome. I cried on the way to and from appointments. I cried when they performed extensive and expensive and excruciating tests on me, all of which came back normal, and only then tested my husband to find his swimmers dead in the water.
Then I rallied. We could do this! Maybe we would never be able to afford IVF or international adoption, but we could afford artificial insemination. We could pick a sperm donor out of a catalogue. I built a homunculus and let him live rent free in my head. The donor would have to be tall like my husband. He would have to have dark hair and brown eyes. Everything that was superficial and artificial had to match in the simulacrum we were constructing inside our heads.
I was still going to have every beautiful moment I had always wanted. I concocted elaborate schemes to announce my pregnancy only at the last minute, when we were sure. I would do an elaborate gender reveal with pink cake and blue balloons. I would hold a baby in my body for nine months and in my arms forever.
The genetics no longer factored into this equation: we were going to have one baby, and it was going to be ours, and we were going to raise it with all the improbable love we shared in a home full of dogs and music and fairy tales and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. She (in our thought experiments the baby was always a girl) was going to be reading Shakespeare by the time she was nine and was most definitely going to play the drums.
I started fertility treatment. They gave me hormones to start my period and hormones to stop it. We were looking into sperm banks and the doctor was debating whether or not we should try a round or two of IUI with my husband's sperm "just to see."
I was so tired of trying, but for the first time in 6 years, I was also hopeful. I was only 33 years old and all of the tears and all of the anguish would be worth it in the end, when I held my baby (Would it be William Harper or Lillian Rose?) in my arms.
And then, out of the clear blue sky after exploring abandoned cemeteries in South Carolina, I had a heart attack.
About the Author
I was born in the North Georgia mountains but currently live in beautiful Savannah with my husband, three dogs, a bird, and occasionally my grown kids. I have been teaching for 13 years and have a B.A. in English Lit and an M.Ed. in Secondary English. My hobbies include birdwatching, photography, writing, and playing video games.