I hate needles.
I've suffered from an irrational fear of injections since first grade, when Frau Drausinger lined up our class at the Volksschule and we all got immunized against who-knows-what. I wanted to bolt out of line, but peer pressure kept me frozen in place.
Today, with COVID-19 ravaging the world, it's another kind of fear that will drive me to the community health center in Cottonwood, Ariz., to get my vaccine. It is the fear of getting sick, the fear of spreading coronavirus to a loved one — and the fear of an eternal lockdown.
A surprising number of readers will also take the COVID-19 vaccine. It's our best chance to get past the pandemic and travel again. But what if you say "no" to the immunization? What if you'd rather avoid needles? Or what if you've heard those wacky rumors about the vaccine?
Well, I have some good news — and bad news — for you.
Who's getting vaccinated?
The latest research suggests just 60 percent of Americans will choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. That still leaves 132 million people in the U.S. who won't get their shots.
Maybe they're afraid they'll get microchipped or that their DNA will be altered (both claims have been debunked). Or maybe they just don't like needles.
It would be easy to dismiss these anti-vaxxers as ignorant fools, but I can't. I'm related to some of them, and no matter what they believe, no matter how groundless their fears, I want them to survive this pandemic.
If you're reading this, and you're one of the 40 percent who will skip the COVID-19 vaccine, I'm talking to you.
The vaccine is our best chance to travel again
I've been writing about this pandemic as a journalist since its beginning. Before that, I covered several other epidemics for mainstream media outlets. I'm not a medical expert, but as a consumer advocate, I know a thing or two about human behavior.
We tried lockdowns and quarantines. And yet here we are at the end of 2020 with a record number of infections. COVID-19 is a lot harder to get rid of than we thought. The coronavirus is unlikely to vanish quickly, according to medical experts.
They say a safe, effective vaccine is — pardon the pun — our best shot at returning to normal.
But if you're an inveterate traveler like me, it means even more than that. Airlines are already requiring a negative COVID-19 test for travelers. It's only a matter of time before they will also ask for a vaccine certificate (look for a more detailed report in my next Washington Post column).
For us nomads, the vaccine is our passport. It's our ticket to travel again.
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What if I refuse the vaccine?
OK, but what if my vaccine phobia gets the best of me? Or what if I become convinced that Bill Gates will use the vaccine to turn me into a drooling robot?
The consequences of skipping the vaccine would go far beyond being grounded for another year.
COVID-19 is highly contagious, and the latest strain in the U.K. is said to be 56 percent more infectious. It's probably not a question of if, but when this virus will infect my entire household.
When we get the coronavirus, we might be fine. But what if we aren't? What if coronavirus takes one of my kids? I would never be able to forgive myself if it were preventable.
I can't say no to the vaccine.
What happens when I see a needle
But this is not going to be easy. I'm pretty sure I have a severe case of trypanophobia, a fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. The last time I had a vaccine for a trip to Africa, it was a series of shots for everything from hepatitis A and B to shingles. And they hurt.
Afterward, I broke into a cold sweat and felt my knees go weak. My daughter said my face turned gray. Not a good look for me.
I don't want that to happen again. I'm especially wary of the allergic reactions that some have experienced with the Moderna vaccine.
What if that's me?
So, needless to say, I'm not looking forward to my COVID-19 vaccine. And yet it can't come soon enough. When it's my time to get the shot, I'm going to close my eyes and hope for the best. The nurse will probably tell me not to be such a baby, and I'll try to laugh it off. I won't say a word about my irrational anxiety. I know I’ll be terrified.
And it'll be worth it.
Still not sure about getting the vaccine?
If you're still on the fence about a vaccine, here are a few things you need to know.
First, the folks lining up for the vaccine are doing this for your health as much as they are doing it for theirs. They are the members of your community — your friends, neighbors, parents and children. They're getting inoculated because they want to bring a quick end to the pandemic.
Second, your participation may not be essential, but that’s no excuse. Here's the good news I mentioned earlier: Experts say it may be possible to achieve herd immunity with as little as 60 percent of the population vaccinated. So if everyone who wants the vaccine gets it, we might be fine.
But I'd rather have a sure thing. Wouldn't you?
Finally, there is only one thing that you need to do, no matter your decision. Don't try to stop others from getting vaccinated. Because if only half the population achieves immunity, we might still have a COVID problem well beyond 2021. Feel free to express your concerns about the vaccine, but if your kids or parents say they're getting their shots, please let them.
I know that I'm going to get myself into deep trouble for this edition of Elliott Confidential. Maybe you're so angry that you're about to unsubscribe. Before you do, please know this: I love all of my subscribers, and that includes you. I want you to stay healthy and travel again. That’s why I wrote this.
Believe me, if there were any way to stop the rampant spread of COVID, then this trypanophobe would be all over it.
Will you get the COVID-19 vaccine when it's available? The comments are open. Please be polite.