I Got Vaccinated Because I’m Selfish

Photo: Kingsley Osei-Abrah/Unsplash

And that’s God’s honest truth

Five minutes of vomiting followed by another seven minutes of groaning in agony. Twelve minutes in total, sitting on my mom’s couch, as she got ready for the day ahead.

When she finally exited the bathroom, it was clear that I startled her.

“Oh, Jay! I didn’t know that you were here.”

She feigned a smile and made her way across the apartment to greet me. Her steps were slow and labored. No doubt her knees, both of which needed to be replaced, were aching. No doubt the fibromyalgia joined in on the fun and made every movement a dreaded task. No doubt this was not, as she termed it, “one of the good days.”

That’s what happens when you live with debilitating health issues. The days of the week are no longer relevant. Rather you classify days as either “good” or “bad.” That was a bad day, yet she smiled.

“You okay? You want something to eat?” My mom’s questions always come in multiples, as if trying to fit as much as she can into every sentence.

“I’m okay. How are you?” I said while moving towards her outstretched arms.

“I’ve been better. Okay, let’s hurry — we’ll get something to eat on the way.”

“We don’t have to go if you’re not feeling well. It’s okay.”

She could barely contain the grimace on her face. Nor did she need to. I signed us up for the lupus walk for the first time since receiving her diagnosis, just three years prior. We talked about it every year but never made a plan. This year was different.

“No, I want to go. There’s no cure, so I just have to live with the pain. It could always be worse.”

She walked towards her bedroom to finish getting ready. We were going. There was no convincing her otherwise.

The aforementioned lupus walk took place in 2019; we planned to go again the following year. Little did we know that the world would be drastically different. With city lockdowns, mask mandates, and a general fear of going outside or getting too close to people, 2020 was a lot, to say the least.

For someone with an immunocompromising disease, it was worse. We never fed into the comparisons between Covid-19 and the common cold or the flu because the reality is all of those illnesses can kill the immunocompromised. We never took any chances because the risk of serious illness or hospitalization was too great. And, we did everything in our power to limit outside contact and exposure.

NYC Lupus Walk 2019. Photo provided by author.

My need to do things perfectly was overbearing and I’m sure it drove my family crazy.

When the experimental trials for the coronavirus vaccines opened up, I signed up.

“You did what?” my wife asked.

“It looks promising. If I can get it early, maybe that’s one step closer to going back to normal; less to worry about.”

We talked about our mistrust in the system and our desire to see what happens after obtaining more data. She read the initial reports and concerns with that particular trial. Far from an anti-vaxxer, she just wanted to make sure that benefits outweighed the risks. I just didn’t want to kill my mom.

As 2020 came to a close, the data came in rapidly. Not only were the Covid-19 vaccines effective, but they were also generally safe. Once approved for emergency use, I signed up for my first dose as soon as I could. My wife, mom, and the rest of my family did the same. We put our trust in science and the medical system, while understanding why others didn’t.

Some family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues were reluctant.

“You don’t even know what’s in it.”

“They made that way too fast.”

“Nope! Couldn’t be me.”

They cited conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory and provided me with YouTube videos that I was able to debunk in seconds. I reciprocated with facts, but none changed their stances.

Sure, I care about the common good, but that didn’t influence me more than my want to be with the people that I love.

As local and federal mandates trickled in, the voices of dissenters grew louder.

“You can’t control our rights!”

“We shouldn’t lose our jobs over this!”

“You’re killing people!”

While I value free will and understand the history of medical racism in America, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that these vaccines are saving lives and preventing hospitalizations. When I have encountered people resistant to getting vaccinated (who don’t have relevant allergies or underlying conditions), I’ve tried to appeal to their sense of human decency and the common good. “Don’t just do it for yourself, but also those around you,” I often found myself saying. And more often than not, my attempts at conversion were futile. And with each conversation, my anger grew.

I blamed anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists for the spread of misinformation. I condemned those who are still “doing their own research” and “waiting to see what happens.” The fact is that if skeptics never cared about the contents of a Black & Mild and are ignorant to the impact of Yellow No. 5, then this was never about health and research. If we’re being honest, most Americans are ignorant to the contents of foods, products, or medicines that we use or ingest. Regardless of the reason for folks’ “personal choice” not to be vaccinated, we’re all dealing with the consequences.

I didn’t write this to condemn anti-vaxxers (although I do), nor did I write this to portray myself as better than anyone who can safely be vaccinated and chooses otherwise. I don’t care to debate about Kyrie’s stance on vaccines or the current status of Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s testicles. I wrote this because there’s a laundry list of health issues that Black people are more likely to encounter, including hypertension, heart disease, lupus, asthma, and cancer. All of which are bigger threats due to Covid-19, which has ravaged Black communities around America for nearly two years. We need to do all we can to protect ourselves. And especially the immunocompromised among us.

After doing my own research and listening to people who’ve been doing this research for years, I got vaccinated because I believe it gives me more time. It gives me a chance to hug my family and friends; a chance to kiss my nieces, nephews, and godchildren, and tell them that I love them. It gives me a chance at some semblance of life before this pandemic. Sure, I care about the common good, but that didn’t influence me more than my want to be with the people that I love.

I got vaccinated because I’m selfish, and that’s God’s honest truth.

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