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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Bill Thompson: Stop stalling. Get vaccinated. You’ll be glad you did.

For a long time, I refused to get a flu shot. I don’t remember why. I think it was because I once came down with the flu, or something like it, right after I got the shot. I figured the shot made me sick.

Health experts will tell you that doesn’t happen. The shot can have side effects, some of which might be similar to flu symptoms, but the shot does not, will not, cannot give you the flu. If I got sick after getting vaccinated it might have been because I was exposed to the flu right before I got the shot and got sick before the shot kicked in. Or it might have been some other virus.

Whatever the cause, it gave me an excuse to stop getting vaccinated against the seasonal flu. Then one winter, the last of four teeth-chattering winters I spent in Maine, I got a case of what was surely that season’s flu. I was so sick I thought I might die and kind of wished I would. The next year I got a flu shot and I’ve gotten one every year since. No side effects, no flu, no problem.

So why was I stalling about getting vaccinated against COVID-19? The coronavirus that started killing people a year ago is still killing people. With three vaccines available, why wouldn’t everyone in their right mind rush out and get vaccinated as soon as they possibly can?

For my part, there’s no denying that vaccines have been very very good to me. The annual flu shot has apparently protected me from the flu ever that since miserable winter in Maine seven or eight years ago. In 2019, my doctor recommended the shingles vaccine and I went right out and got the shots (it’s a two-shot regimen). So far, so good.

And, long ago, there was the Salk vaccine. At the height of the polio epidemic in the 1950s, I came down with what the doctor called a mild case of polio after getting two of the three shots they were giving kids back then to ward off the disease. The doctor said those two shots almost certainly saved me from a far worse bout with the most feared virus of my childhood years.

There was absolutely no good reason for me to be dragging my heels when it came to the COVID vaccine. I wasn’t particularly bothered by all the anti-vaccine chatter floating around the media and the internet. And I wasn’t putting off inoculation because I voted for Donald Trump – polls claiming that Trump voters have been refusing to get vaccinated notwithstanding. The former president has been vaccinated, by the way, and has urged his followers to do likewise.

Most likely my hesitation was caused by pure laziness. Getting signed up. Waiting for an appointment. Not knowing when or where I’d have to go to get the shot. It just seemed like a lot of effort.

Besides, I’d been plugging along in more or less tranquil obedience to the rules of pandemic life. Working at home. Wearing a mask (or two). Avoiding contact with other humans like, well, like the plague. Why get all urgent about a shot in the arm?

Then Texas Gov. Greg Abbott threw me to the wolves by dumping the statewide mask mandate and telling businesses they could let people swarm their premises they way they used to do in the good old days before the coronavirus. Suddenly, urgent became the operative word when talking about vaccination.

And, suddenly, motivated by that newfound sense of urgency, I got down to business and signed up for my first dose of vaccine. I got the shot, no blarney, on St. Patrick’s Day. No immediate side effects. No regrets. I can remember, vaguely, when I used to celebrate the great Irish holiday with shots of Jameson. Those shots had side effects, immediate and otherwise.

The vaccine I received requires a second shot and now, after all the procrastinating, I can’t wait to get the follow-up injection. I feel as though I’ve taken one small step for me and one giant leap for humanity, to paraphrase the late great moonwalker Neil Armstrong. Could I, could all of us, be just a little closer to life as we knew it before coronavirus knocked us for a loop?

The camera-loving, headline-hogging virus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci seems to be wrong as often as he’s right but when he’s right he’s definitely right – and he’s right about this: The more of us who get vaccinated against COVID-19, the closer we’ll be to what the experts call “herd immunity” – that highly desirable state of pandemic evolution where so many people have had the disease or have been inoculated against it that it has a hard time finding someone to infect. It’s the place we have to be before we can replace the world’s dismal “new normal” with the old normal we once took for granted.

So please, everyone, forget your fears or your anti-vaccine prejudice. Forget your politics, if that’s what’s keeping the needle out of your arm. Never mind the hassle of getting in line and getting injected. Never mind the short-term inconvenience. Think about the long-term benefit – to you, to your loved ones, to people you’ve never met who are counting on you to do the right thing.

Roll up your sleeves. Get vaccinated. Save yourself. Save the world.

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Bill Thompson
Thompson is a native of East St. Louis, Ill., where he developed a lifelong love of the St. Louis Cardinals (all-time favorite player, Stan Musial; runner-up, Lou Brock). He’s been editor of daily newspapers in Illinois, New Jersey and Maine, where he spent four teeth-chattering winters in-between two of his three stints with the Fort Worth Business Press. But Thompson’s favorite job over the years has been riling up readers with opinion columns and editorials on topics ranging from politics to sports to curious shenanigans at City Hall. A newspaper in Pennsylvania once marketed him as “the man you love to hate.” He wrote columns for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 1987 to 2001, when he left in the first wave of buyouts and layoffs perpetrated by a now-defunct company called Knight Ridder. He still misses that job. He doesn’t miss Knight Ridder.

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