Vaccines: Do I Have To?

Last week, people my age became eligible in New York State to receive the Covid vaccine.  Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t bother with it: I don’t get seasonal flu shots, and as far as I can tell, while Covid is a few ticks more severe than the Hong Kong flu of my childhood, it’s a few ticks less severe than the Kansas (aka Spanish) flu of a century ago, which we overcame without the benefit of genetically-engineered vaccines.

In brief, I’m not pining to take the shot.

Nevertheless, if my wife and I have the opportunity to travel internationally, and the government at our destination requires proof of vaccination to go there, yes, I’d consider getting the shot.  It’s their country, their government, their rules.

But I resent a vaccine requirement closer to home.

One of the things I missed last year was live baseball.  I really enjoyed seeing the Brooklyn Cyclones at Coney Island, and I was looking forward to going back this year.  I was even contemplating season tickets.  But under Uncle Andy’s latest rules, to attend a live event like a baseball game, I must either present evidence of having been vaccinated, or having had a Covid test (but not just any test!) within the last three days.

On closer inspection, it gets worse.

New York State has unveiled something called the Excelsior Pass.  You register at the state Web site, and then if you get a Covid test or a vaccine, you can get the result encoded as a QR code to be scanned to enter a sports venue or location subject to Covid restrictions.  You can print the QR code or display it through an app on your phone.

But the pass for the antigen test (the ‘quickie’ test that returns a result in a half-hour) is only valid for six hours!  If you get a test in the morning, it won’t be valid for an evening baseball game. (And if the six hours run out before the seventh-inning stretch, will you be ejected from the park at that point?  Will there be automated catapults under the seats for that purpose?)

The pass for a PCR test is valid for three days.  But when last I checked, the PCR test requires 3-5 days to return a result: you’re beaten before you start.

Unless I want to take the shot, no live baseball for me.

All right, then: is there a reason I shouldn’t get vaccinated?

Some of the right-wing Web sites describe the Covid vaccine as, ‘gene therapy, not a vaccine.’  That’s true in the sense that a screw-in LED lamp is not a light bulb.  All vaccines are a way to get foreign protein into your body so that your immune system can learn about it and defend against it.  The Covid vaccine is different in that it carries the script for the virus’s spike protein, not the virus itself.

The icky part is that vaccines like this have been contemplated in the past, and gotten as far as animal testing.  Initially, it looked great: the vaccine initially triggered a strong immune response and protected the animal against whatever it was meant to protect against.  But when the animal was exposed to a variant of the virus some time later, the animal had an excessive immune response and did not do well.  I’m sure that if that happens among humans vaccinated against Covid, the answer will be yet another shot.  If I get vaccinated now, I may be locking myself into getting vaccinated yet again every few months for the rest of my life.

I think I’ll pass on that.

OK, then: at this point, left to my own devices, I’ll wait a year from when the Covid vaccines were first made available to the public.  If this December, there are no widespread reports of adverse reactions, or a panic and a new version of the vaccine, I’ll take the shot.  I can enjoy live baseball next year.

It will be interesting to see if I am indeed left to my own devices.

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