I WAS INCREDIBLY lucky to receive the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 a few weeks ago, and I anticipate receiving my second dose soon. Getting a vaccine has given me a new perspective on the pandemic, vaccinations and how people are responding to increasing levels of vaccinated populations. It is of the utmost importance that as many people get vaccinated as possible, but that does not mean we should be abandoning safety measures that will continue to help prevent the spread of the virus.
More people, including Lewis & Clark community members, will continue to get vaccinated in the coming months. All staff and students older than 16 become eligible for vaccination on April 19. However, I am concerned that awareness and anxiety around the virus will go down. People who are vaccinated may feel that they can take risks they would otherwise not have taken. This includes nonessential travel, indoor dining, maskless gatherings and other risky activities. Though, by vaccinating large percentages of the population, we are working towards being able to do these activities soon, now is just not the right time.
The issue I find with those who have been vaccinated is that they view vaccination as a free pass to do what they want, ignoring the dangerous implications of their actions. For one, though they are very effective, none of the three brands of vaccine currently being distributed in the United States are 100% effective at preventing a COVID-19 case with symptoms. In addition, though vaccinated people may not have symptoms of the virus, they may still have a chance of passing it onto others who have not received the vaccine.
I am also concerned that those who use the excuse that they have been vaccinated to engage in risky behaviors, such as not wearing masks, will encourage others who have not been vaccinated to do the same, thus continuing to spread the virus and prolonging the pandemic. We need to wait for enough people to be vaccinated to create herd immunity, particularly for those who cannot get the vaccine. Only then can we fully return to our pre-pandemic lives.
What this means for me is that I will still be wearing my mask, social distancing in public, sticking to the rules about social pods, only traveling off campus for essential activities and taking all the same precautions that have kept me and the people I care about safe over the last year. Other people who have been vaccinated should do the same. This pandemic is not over, and getting a vaccination does not end your responsibility to public safety both on and off campus. Protecting the people around us should always be our top priority.
After the loss of life, experiences and time over the past year, the prospect of the public being vaccinated to the point of complete herd immunity is beyond exciting. Personally, I cannot wait to be able to spend time in large groups of friends and family, attend in-person events and be able to travel freely again. But the reality of the situation is that people are still being infected with, and are still dying from, COVID-19 throughout the United States and the world. While we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, that is all the more reason to double down on the precautions that have been put in place all along, that will hopefully see us successfully through the end of the pandemic. Get vaccinated if you can, but be smart, stay diligent and protect the people around you.
This article presents opinions held by the author, not those of The Pioneer Log, its editorial board or those interviewed for background information.