I am one of “them.” It sounds strange when you say it out loud, doesn’t it? It automatically sounds unpleasant and begs the question “one of who?” And the answer can provoke equally negative reactions.
I am one of The Unvaccinated.
But why? Many might ask that, sounding incredulous, like it’s the worst thing imaginable. The COVID-19 vaccine has been available for months and millions have gotten it already. That’s true. And I have no problem with anyone who wants to get it, just like I have no problem with mask-wearing.
I have my reasons for not taking the COVID-19 vaccines, and I’ll get to them. Yet before I do, I want to address the stigmatization of "The Unvaccinated." I may not like politics, but I try to stay informed, browsing a variety of sources. And I have seen many people trying to put all unvaccinated people into one figurative and convenient, social-media-transmittable box. If one were to believe the most common media and social media, "The Unvaccinated" all voted for the same presidential candidate, belong to the same political party, and are largely uneducated.
Let’s back up a second: They’re referring to upwards of eighty- to one-hundred-million people, according to President Biden and the United States government.
Do you know what it’s called when you lump large swaths of people together and make negative generalizations about them?
To further my point, consider that we could take a random group of one hundred unvaccinated people and ask them their reasons for not taking one of the vaccines. And from that group, we would likely get one hundred different answers. Now, increase that survey size to one hundred million people and consider how widely varied those answers might be.
Common sense dictates that those one hundred million people could not possibly belong to the same political party. So, who they voted for becomes inconsequential; some of them didn't even vote.
In the United States of America (USA), we still live in a Constitutional Republic. We have — or are supposed to have — representative government. We elect officials to stand in for us locally, statewide and nationally. Our tax dollars pay those government officials’ salaries and fund the services they provide. They are supposed to answer to us, not the other way around.
But what about the public health issue, as many passionately implore? What about the greater good of the nation?
It has been implied that all unvaccinated people are a threat to public health, which is simply untrue. Yet people claim that “The Unvaccinated” are taking up hospital beds that others could be using. Some doctors are even violating their Hippocratic Oath by saying they will not treat “The Unvaccinated.”
Let’s put aside the rhetoric that comes with COVID-related fears and look at this situation objectively. Will some people who are unvaccinated get COVID-19 or one of its variants? Yes. Will some of them require hospitalization? Yes. Will some of them die? Yes. Could they spread it to other people? Yes, they could.
What tends to be ignored is that people who have been vaccinated can do all of those things, too. That’s been proven.
Will a portion of "The Unvaccinated" never show symptoms, even if they have contracted COVID-19? Yes. Will there be some false positive COVID-19 tests? Yes. Will some people who have negative COVID-19 tests later have COVID-19 and have to be treated, possibly being hospitalized? Yes.
Will the vast majority of those who contract COVID-19 survive the experience and make a full recovery? Yes. That also has been proven.
I’m not trivializing the virus, it needs to be taken seriously. And if you’ve consulted with a medical professional and determined that the vaccine is right for you, then go ahead and get it.
But that’s my point: it’s a personal choice. And it needs to be an informed decision.
People have gotten the vaccine and had serious, life-altering, and debilitating side-effects. Young people, who have the highest resistance to COVID-19, have experienced some of the worst side-effects. Teenagers have had heart attacks. People of all ages have taken the vaccine and died because of those side-effects. It doesn’t matter how small or large a percentage it is of those who have taken the vaccine. They are people who were healthy before they took the vaccine and now, they are not healthy or not alive. They are someone’s child, sibling, parent or grandparent.
There are side-effects with pretty much all medications. They won’t affect everyone who takes the medication, but it will affect some. And not all medications are appropriate for all people. So, we should all be informed about any medication we are prescribed or asked to take.
The vaccines are an experimental medical treatment that is still undergoing trials to determine their long-term effects. All of the vaccines available are under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the federal government, even though the FDA approved Pfizer vaccine has the same formulation as the one being administered. Even so, without knowing the potential long-term effects, many people have concerns, and those concerns should not be dismissed so easily.
Some might say “but you (The Unvaccinated) shouldn’t place me, my loved ones and the public at risk for getting COVID-19 or its variants!”
And I would answer “that’s very short-sighted.” Those who have taken the vaccine have done so because, if they get the virus, they should have less symptoms, be more likely to avoid hospitalization, and recover more quickly. That’s what the CDC has claimed, and the data seems to support that so far.
There’s something else we should all consider: We take risks just walking outside and interacting with people at an office building, a family gathering, wedding or funeral. Even if everyone who could be vaccinated was vaccinated, people would still get COVID from those who carry it, even if they don’t show symptoms.
Vaccinated people in cities that mandate vaccines will get COVID. It can’t be one hundred percent avoided. We have been told COVID is here to stay.
There is risk in everything we do. Any one of us could have an automobile accident, a sudden seizure, heart attack, have a lethal or damaging allergic reaction, be caught in a natural weather event (storm, tornado, hurricane, etc.) or be assaulted by someone. Unfortunately, these things happen every day.
That’s life. It comes with risks. We are not guaranteed safety. Life is what we make of it. Or put another way, you get out of life what you put into it.
We shouldn’t live in fear of the unknown. But that’s exactly what some people are doing. Yet even staying inside one’s home, working remotely and/or having one’s children in virtual schooling does not protect everyone from everything. Accidents still happen with homes every day. Weather can impact people, even inside buildings. Crime doesn’t care about locked doors and windows.
Staying isolated, whether by choice or through government imposition, heightens emotional and mental issues. It has led to an increase in suicides worldwide. And the lockdowns did not slow the spread of the virus.
Imposing one’s fears on others is not the answer, either. It creates an “Us versus Them” culture. And when people are lumped into a “them” category, bad things happen. It has been this way in the past and will happen in the future.
When I began dating an African-American young woman (not my wife) in my late teens, I was confronted by racist bullies who called me a “(use-your-imagination-for-the-slur)-lover.” I was one of “them,” someone who wanted to date outside my race. The racism they displayed was easily identifiable as wrong, yet they did it. They were offended by my actions and spurred on to confront me. Thankfully, all they used were words and I was alone at the time. But at one point in history, they would have been the majority, even though they were misguided and wrong in their racism. It was the cultural norm for a long time.
Today, COVID vaccination has been politicized and weaponized. And “The Unvaccinated” are seen and described in negative terms by the media, celebrities, social media influencers and regular people.
They do so easily, without knowing (or sometimes caring) what people’s reasons are for not getting vaccinated. It’s a collective mentality, like the one behind cancel culture. It’s “Us versus Them.” People have been made so fearful of COVID that some are almost beyond reasoning about it. They feel how they feel and you’re wrong if you don’t agree with them or do what they say. They feel justified in their fear, mistrust and/or anger. I understand. It’s easier to look at things through a lens of fear. And there’s always the justification of “Why don’t The Unvaccinated just get the vaccine? It’s widely available and free.”
Actually, it’s not free. We the people are paying for it through our taxes and the U.S. Government is mass-purchasing the vaccines at about twenty dollars a shot. And that’s fine. Just don’t call it free when it’s not.
People have good reasons for not getting the vaccine. Some have had adverse reactions to the first vaccine and don’t want to take the second. Some have medical conditions like Multiple Sclerosis and can’t take the vaccine. Some people have legitimate concerns about the potential side effects, including even the potential risk of infertility, miscarriage, or birth defects. Some people have heart conditions, which could be aggravated by the vaccine. And there are still more conditions where a medical professional might advise their patient not to get the vaccine. And those decisions and concerns should be respected.
Then there’s personal freedom and liberty, no matter what politicians, celebrities and social influencers say to the contrary. As Americans, our Constitution endows us with certain inalienable rights. And while the Founding Fathers, whether you revere or despise them, could not have foreseen all the future would hold for this country, they did do something extraordinary: they made our unique system of government with checks and balances.
The USA has three branches of government: the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. The Executive Branch includes the President’s Office and administration. The Legislative Branch includes both the House and Senate of Congress. And the Judicial Branch includes the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Constitution clearly outlines the powers of each branch. It also allows the other branches to block or redirect a branch that acts in a way that exceeds its designated authority. For example, the President can make a recommendation, pass certain executive orders, pardon people or declare an emergency. But Congress has to make laws that support a President’s recommendations. Only Congress can declare war. And Congress has to reach a certain majority among the legislators votes on bills to pass that legislation. If either the President or Congress take actions that exceed their authority, the Supreme Court can deliberate and decide whether that action did or did not exceed the authority given to that branch, according to the Constitution.
This occurred recently when the Supreme Court decided that the rent moratorium declared by the President and the CDC was unconstitutional, because it exceeded the authority given to the government. The Supreme Court ruled that Congress would have to be the entity to pass legislation to make a legal and binding rent moratorium. When Congress was unable to reach a consensus on such legislation before the moratorium expired, nothing more could be done legally.
These checks and balances were put into the U.S. Constitution to prevent abuse of authority. The Founding Fathers had seen the King of England abuse authority back in their day and they did not want a king or tyrant to rule America. They suggested and considered numerous forms of government before agreeing on what ended up in practice today.
With this in mind, the President of the United States does not have the legal authority to coerce private businesses into mandating vaccinations or forcing American citizens to take the time and possibly pay every week to get COVID testing. The President does not have the authority to use the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to impose $14000 fines per business “violation” of an unconstitutional order or plan. The President would be bypassing Congress as well as the governors and legislatures of all fifty states. And that is why even the threat of such action is already facing significant legal challenges.
Now, as for my personal reasons for not wanting to get the vaccine, I have a complicated medical history. I won’t go into all the details, but it is extensive. I had two major surgeries in the summer of 1983 to deal with potentially cancerous colon polyps (based on a family history of them). I was given multiple options by my specialist doctor and advised by my father, since I was thirteen at the time. He recommended the most radical surgical option, but it was the one with the best chance of giving me a normal life. I made the choice to go with the option he advised. It was painful and very traumatizing, but I recovered. And I went twenty years with no difficulties.
However, by 2012, there were long-term and significant complications from those initial surgeries. I was in constant pain, losing a great deal of weight and spending a lot of time in the emergency room or in the hospital. I had developed an irregular heartbeat.
I was slowly dying and I knew it.
So, after consulting with my doctor, my wife and many days of prayer, I chose to take the risk of more surgery in 2012. I did so because I wanted to have more time with my family, especially my sons and my then-one-year-old daughter. The surgery relieved the main problem but required one final surgery in 2017.
I am a lot better physically now, but still have some issues. My body underwent a lot of physical stress between 2004 and 2012. At least my heartbeat is even back to normal after the last surgery. I can work normally and do a lot more with my family than before. But I already know that this vaccine would pose some risks to me. And I would have to consult with a doctor to determine what those risks might be.
Even so, neither I nor anyone else should be forced to undergo any medical procedure or penalized for not choosing to do so. As I said, I have undergone many medical procedures in my life, but I knew the risks and decided for myself that they were the right choices. They were never compulsory — and certainly not by a politician who is not my personal physician or someone with a medical background.
I have been one of “them” in the past and I guess I will be one now. I have nothing against anyone else’s choices concerning masks or the vaccines. But they should be choices.
The risks of everyday life are more of a threat to people than I am. Or anyone else who is unvaccinated. If you have been vaccinated, that’s great. Live your life, to the best of your ability. It’s not necessary to worry about or try to control anyone else.
We still live in a free country. Let’s keep it that way.
Twenty years ago, the United States of America changed. And so did the world.
Terrorists took over four regular airplane flights and used them as weapons against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which was the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. But the heroic actions of the passengers and flight attendants of United Airlines Flight 93 prevented the fourth plane from reaching its intended target.
As we watched an actual national disaster occur, many of us understood for the first time that disaster movies paled in comparison to the real thing. It was surreal and in those first few hours, it was terrifying. We lost a sense of security we had enjoyed for nearly one hundred and fifty years.
I heard the news of the first airplane striking the World Trade Center just after I had dropped off my then-five-year-old son, Adam, to elementary school. I was listening to the radio on the way to work. I remember the radio announcer thought it may have been a charter plane having an accident. But by the time I reached the office, the second plane had hit the other tower and I knew it was deliberate. In my heart, I already knew it was terrorism.
I was a network administrator at an engineering firm then, and we all knew no work was going to get done that day. Like many people, we stood around the office television in the main lobby and watched the unfolding news. What was strange to me was hearing the engineers explain the effects of the burning plane fuel destroying the support structures of the buildings, which they believed led to their collapse. It made sense but there was an intellectual disconnect in the way they spoke compared to the fear and amazement I could sense from them.
We were all in shock.
I remember my wife calling me after the second tower collapsed. She was at home with our then-two-year-old-son, Jonavinne. I did my best to comfort her.
The schools let out early that day, so I left work and went to pick up my son and take him home. Then I did one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do as a parent: I explained to Adam, in kid-friendly terms, what had happened in these terror attacks. I had to pray before speaking with him and the Lord blessed me with words. I let him know it was real, it was serious. Many people had been hurt and many people had died. Explaining death was probably the most difficult part. But he received it all from me. To the best of his ability, he understood.
All through the rest of the day, like so many others, we watched the news and the constant replay of the images. It was entrancing, morbid and terrible. My wife and I said many prayers that day — for the victims, the survivors, their families, America, the world, and for ourselves and our family.
But we saw something else start to occur in the news coverage. People were coming together for candlelight vigils in support of the victims, survivors and their families. They were placing flowers and wreaths, pictures of the victims in memorium. And by the next day, a sense of nationwide unity had emerged. Videos of support emerged, statements from many world leaders, interviews with ordinary people from many nations.
Also, amazing stories surfaced from survivors of the World Trade Center towers. Jews and Muslims had helped save one another. People of all races and ages sacrificed to make sure others made it out alive. We heard about the herculean efforts from all the first responders and learned of so many of their selfless accomplishments and sacrifices.
When it mattered, during a crisis, Americans put aside their differences and came together as a nation. In our darkest hour to date, America shined. And like many other Americans, I was proud of us. That togetherness, that shared identity as Americans, helped us cope and survive as a country. It was an outstanding example to the world.
It’s an example we can still learn from.
Dr. Elizabeth Merab gazed at Commander Drusilla Nona, the salt-and-pepper haired Chief Engineer of Transport 80-14. The sixty-four-year-old was brought into the Medical Bay with difficulty breathing due to inhaling toxic fumes. She was also suffering debilitating pain from multiple fractures in her right leg.
“Drusilla, you can barely breathe, and that leg can’t support your weight yet,” Dr. Merab said in an exasperated huff.
“I can manage better than you think, Elizabeth,” Drusilla hissed back. “And my team needs me!”
“You’re a certified mechanical genius without peer, but you have a chip on your shoulder the size of Dolarus Prime,” Dr. Merab insisted.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You work beyond your shift hours, get far too little rest, and you refuse to change your dietary or exercise habits,” the doctor continued.
“I passed my last physical,” the engineer retorted.
“I’m still not convinced you didn’t use some kind of tech to throw off my bio-scanner.”
“If I did, you couldn’t prove it, doctor,” Drusilla said with a smirk.
Not responding to the comment, Dr. Merab added “You even think you can continue to work with these injuries.”
“I can!” the engineer asserted.
Let’s put that to a reality check, shall we? Dr. Merab barely touched her patient’s injured leg and then let go. Even so, it caused the older woman to howl in pain.
“Th-that’s got to be some kind of ethics violation!” Drusilla wheezed a moment later, furious and now sweating from the discomfort. “Do n-no harm, right?”
Dr. Merab visibly bridled under the accusation but stayed in control of her emotions.
“We’ve known each other for twenty-five years, Drusilla. I’m hoping a personal appeal will prevail where reason has failed. Barring that, I might have to drug you against your will and face being dragged off in fusion cuffs. That is, if we survive this catastrophe.”
“Just try it,” Drusilla warned.
Dr. Merab leaned close to the Chief Engineer and spoke softly but with a firm tone.
“Between your half-scorched lungs and the effects of being tossed into a bulkhead, I would be doing more harm letting you go in this condition,” Dr. Merab soothed. “Dru, let one of my nurses treat you properly, so you can live to see your husband and grandsons again. I know I want to see my granddaughter on her tenth birthday next month.”
Drusilla gave her an angry gaze. “No air using our grandchildren, Liz.” Then she relented. “Fine. Do what you have to do but get me up and walking around as soon as possible!”
Satisfied, Dr. Merab smiled and used a hypo-injector to relieve the engineer of consciousness.
“You have a deal, my friend.”
This excerpt is from Into The Unknown: Seven Short Stories of Faith and Bravery, available as an ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Get it now!
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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