Americans In a Rush to Get the Vaccine: Good News for Our Bad Habits

I am not at all surprised to see polls showing that Americans’ reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine is waning.

No matter one’s ideology, Americans have always wanted what they wanted — and fast. Fast food. Fast cars. Fast internet. And, in this case, fast medicine.

Patience is not our strong suit.

Mere months ago, Americans were wary of a coming vaccine. “I don’t know what’s in it,” they said. Please! Who are they kidding? Do they know what’s in their hot dog? Their morning juice? Their Tylenol pill?

Suddenly, folks are jumping up and down like they have a winning lottery ticket if they are able to get a vaccine shot.

I am all for the vaccine and science. When we think of all the great progress made in technology during the 20th Century, we often overlook the incredible medical advances. While there was progress in the late 19th Century, due to the remarkable work of Louis Pasteur and others in connecting germs and bacteria to disease (Pasteur himself created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax), medical science really fast-tracked in the 20th Century.

In John M. Barry’s comprehensive history of the 1918 flu epidemic, The Great Influenza, he goes back in time to explain how medicine had advanced up to that point. The knowledge that had transpired was useful in understanding the world epidemic, but not enough to conquer it. But what was learned because of that epidemic helped immensely in the years to come.

Anti-vaxxers should try to imagine what kind of a world we’d have if we still had polio, diphtheria, tetanus, rubella, measles, whooping cough, Hepatitis A and B, chicken pox, mumps, rubella, typhoid, and more.

And so, I am glad we are coming to our senses and lining up for the Covid-19 vaccine. But are we doing so for the right reasons, or is it more of our usual habit of wanting a quick fix?

Are we giving a passing thought to the folks in poor countries who will likely not have vaccinations for many months to come? Or how about our own people? Early studies in New York City have already shown that white people are getting a larger share of the vaccinations, rather than black and Latino population, which was more adversely affected by the virus. And the wealthy are finding ways to buy their way to the front of the line, as usual.

I feel that many privileged folks can’t wait to get the vaccination so they can discard the mask and get back to “normal” life. Hey, selfish people, read the fine print: You still have to mask after vaccination because although the vaccine will likely prevent you from getting sick and dying, you can still be asymptomatic and spread it. We are not safe until all are safe.

I was certified as a health coach in 2016. I am not a medical doctor or a nutritionist, but I have a basic knowledge of different aspects of health and, more importantly, an ability to help people change their habits until meaningful improvement sets in.

For health coaches, the old adage still applies: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Yet so many Americans do not want to do the prevention part. We don’t want to stick to an exercise regimen, we don’t want to change our eating habits. If the doctor says our cholesterol is high, most would sooner start popping Lipitor tablets rather than give up their weekly cheeseburger and pizza fixes. I wonder how many ask, “But doctor, what is in my Lipitor?”

Prevention is also not our strong suit, whether that means health, infrastructure, climate change, immigration, or what have you.

Because so many of us did not want to wear a mask and social distance early on, a year later we are looking at a half million deaths — a quarter of all the deaths in the world. We have been severely punished for our lack of patience and compliance.

I am still here. I am still healthy, despite having a preexisting condition. I still have to be vigilant because I can’t always manage the stupidity and selfishness of others.

When it is my turn, I will get the vaccine. I refuse to step over others at higher risk and who work in public for my own sake.

If you are fine, you have made it this far. Be calm, take a nice socially distanced breath. Take pride in your self-discipline. Be careful. Stay well. You can make it a few months longer, if need be. Do the right thing for others.

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Kevin Scott Hall

Kevin Scott Hall

I am an author, freelance writer, and singer/songwriter. I split my time between Brooklyn, NY and my native Massachusetts. I teach at City College of New York.