Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Headlines about vaccines are splattered all over the media these days. We, all of us, are on our toes with expectation, waiting for one to work. But we may be reaching. And even if one works, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

When I was younger, before this pandemic, I never thought about vaccines. When my doctor told me they needed to shoot something into my body, I quietly submitted to the demigods of science and medicine and let them medicate me, even though I hate needles (and still do).

Be Cautious With Medicine

But now that I have kids, I’ve developed a newfound caution towards medicine. I don’t believe everything I hear from institutions, especially when they haven’t been thoroughly tested. Before I make a decision when it comes to medication or healthcare, I thoroughly research it.

I became more cautious after researching home births. I discovered that a woman’s body is, more often than not, perfectly capable of, and designed for, giving birth without medical intervention. Yet, healthcare systems would have you believe that babies are only best born in a hospital, without telling you that they are revenue-centers for healthcare systems.

I’m not saying medicine is nefarious or that the people who work in the field mean to hurt or take advantage of their patients. I don’t think they do. I think they mean the best.

Nor am I saying that vaccines are bad. They’re not. Clearly, they save lives and have been incredible innovations for humanity. I’m supremely grateful that I didn’t have to worry about contracting polio when I was a kid on those sweltering summer days when I dove and splashed in the neighborhood pool. But just because vaccines are good doesn’t mean there isn’t risk here. There is, especially for new ones.

History of Vaccine Failures

You see, there have been problems in the past. Not just little hiccups. I’m talking about people getting the disease from a vaccine that it was supposed to keep them from getting, like polio. True story: in 1955, The Cutter Incident happened.

Cutter Laboratories developed a vaccine for polio and 250 people, instead of getting inoculated from the disease, got infected. So hundreds were crippled for life when they thought they were getting a preventative measure. Some even died.

Yes, that “incident” led to some reform. Additional protocols like better regulatory measures and a way to get compensated for being harmed by a vaccine were created. But still. People died—kids died.

But even with those improvements from the Cutter Incident, problems with other vaccines still occurred, even as recent as 2013. Here are some of them.

  1. Simian Virus 40 (SV40) – 1955–1963, 10-30% vaccinated with this polio vaccination got this virus, which looks high.
  2. Swine Flu Vaccine and Guillain-Barré Syndrome – 1976, where a “small” fraction one out of one hundred thousand got this serious condition .
  3. The latest one occurred in 2013, where the manufacturer was concerned that there might have been “glass particles” in the vials for their HPV vaccine. I’m not exactly sure what all of that means, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want glass particles shot into my bloodstream.

I’m not saying that there’s a conspiracy with all of the vaccines that had issues listed above. That’s not the point. I’m sure they were meant to help people, solve the problem of some sickness whatever it was. But not all shots are silver bullets.

What Does This Mean for the Covid-19 Vaccine?

These days, many seem to think that once someone pops out a vaccine for Covid-19, we will be dandy, all good—saved. And the multitudes will rush to get injected with it.

But I wouldn’t.

And now, we have a vaccine-race.

This week I read that Russia has developed a vaccine and that President Putin is even ready to inject his daughter with it. But does anyone really believe that?

And all of this is going so fast, maybe too fast. It’s been predicted that the vaccine will take at least a year to develop. But if history proves anything, it shows us that we have no idea how long it takes to make a vaccine. This website says historically it has taken 10-15 years. And HIV/AIDS still doesn’t have a vaccine even though researchers have been working on one since the early 1980’s. In 1984 it was declared that a vaccine would be available in two years. That declaration didn’t quite pan out.

But let’s say scientists beat the odds for this new crisis, and the Russians or some other country or company makes a working vaccine. My question is, Can it be trusted? Humans err. Especially when they rush things. I mean, when I rush a blog post like this and publish it without being thorough, it will have typos and errors. Even when I am super careful, there are often still issues. And they might hurt your wordsmithing sensibilities, but not your body, your well-being. But the Cutter Incident proves that errors with vaccines can cause significant damage.

This Worries Me

So that doesn’t just make me cautious. I’m concerned. What concerns me is our willing acceptance of a new vaccine. This worries me for you, your family, your kids, your friends, and for mine and me. This whole vaccine business is not risk-free, and it certainly isn’t guaranteed. Yes, it’s a worthwhile venture. But it’s venturing into unknown territory. And just because it’s a worthy cause doesn’t mean I’m willing to sacrifice my loved ones for it by jumping into line to get pricked right after they open the gates to everyone.

Now there are risks on either side. If you don’t get vaccinated, there are risks for getting the disease. But if you do, there will be a risk of getting the disease, too. Neither is certain. And there isn’t enough data to know for sure which way is best. I’ll admit I’m not a statistician. So if you’re playing the odds, don’t go by my words. I’m merely pointing out that there’s risk.

Closing Suggestions

I suggest that we need to temper our expectations for this vaccine and not allow our emotions to be swayed back and forth by the headlines. And if, by some miracle, a vaccine gets developed and passes clinical trials, be cautious. Just because it passes trials doesn’t make it completely safe.

But I do know this. I can’t control the vaccine nor the pandemic, but I can control how careful I am. I can wear a mask, socially distance, quarantine as much as possible. I can hope, and pray.

You can too.

Stay well, friends.

Lots of love,
John

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The greatest reward for pandemic risk

Assessing risk is hard anytime, but, in a pandemic, it’s even harder. But it’s paramount.

People should think “The coronavirus kills and is unpredictable, so I should wear a mask, especially indoors, and socially distance so I don’t transmit or get infected and become a transmitter.” But many don’t.

Especially in the US.

People aren’t socially distancing. People aren’t wearing masks.

And I think it has a lot to do with how people assess risk. Yes, it’s not the only reason the virus is rampant in our country. Sure, people are selfish. And true, people think the pandemic is a hoax. But there’s also this critical mental exercise that so many of us fail to practice that often harms us. We don’t think realistically about the downside of our actions.

And, to be honest, that’s the wonderful thing about Americans: we are optimists. We attempt the impossible because we refuse to see the impossibilities. That’s what makes us scrappy, entrepreneurial, rugged, dogged, where many of us have an I-can’t-let-some-stupid-virus-stop-me-from-living-my-best-life mindset. That’s an attribute—in a pre-pandemic world.

My mother. I love her. She’s an octogenarian. She’s old. And last week she went to a store with my sister and picked up legos for my first born son. And I scolded her for it. Because, to me, going to the store with my sister to pick up legos for my son isn’t worth the risk of putting herself in danger of getting a virus that would likely kill her. But she scoffed at me.

The virus turns optimism against us. It seizes that which is usually a strength in a non-pandemic world and turns it into, not only a weakness, but a weapon. See, my mother’s ventures into a toy store can lead to her getting herself, or me, or my son, or others, sick.

Often we don’t even know what the stakes are. We’re completely unaware. That’s especially true now. I think it’s because the virus can’t be seen and anyone who’s sick is behind hospital walls and you can’t really see what is going on with them. All we have are some stories people tell us in the media or social media. And we lack the imagination and awareness (maybe even the humility) to apply those horrific accounts to ourselves.

Till it’s too late.

The pandemic is a long view problem. Short term desires and actions only threaten and kill more people. There are no quick fixes. It needs to be handled with creating new habits, patterns, thinking that affect our lives. But too many refuse to think that way, and, instead, they do what they want when they want because that’s what they’ve always done.

But the pandemic isn’t about losing money or failure or losing a job or getting broken up with—no. It’s about death. It’s about forfeiting your life, or, worse, your actions costing the lives of your loved ones. When we are cavalier and careless, trying to live on as if the pandemic didn’t exist, we aren’t endangering just ourselves; we are risking the lives of everyone we love, too.

See, the world has changed; and in order to survive, even thrive in it, we must also change. We must adapt. What once was safe is now dangerous, no matter how optimistic we feel. And with each interaction with the physical world, we must measure it against this new reality.

And if you do, there is reward.

It’s life.


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You can survive this time

Sometimes authority is wrong. In America, it’s woefully wrong about the pandemic.

Everything is not ok. It’s not safe.

I’m not trying to be a fear-monger. I’m just telling you the truth.

I don’t want you to get sick. I don’t want you to spread this disease to your loved ones.

Look, our leaders are failing us. When leadership fails, we must lead ourselves.

When governments fail to use reason, data, wisdom, we must self-regulate.

We must stay informed and help, encourage, challenge, and bless each other.

I’m not saying this time is easy. No, it’s terrible. It kick-you-in-the-face challenging. It’s “unprecedented.”

We must use our minds, stay calm, and not rush into a world that no longer exists. It’s not safe.

But I have hope. I believe this will pass. It will be safe again. But it’s just not now.

In the meantime, practice caution, call friends and family, eat delicious food, read books, binge a show, learn a new skill, occupy your time with healthy, socially distanced activities.

And when you get through this, you’ll be stronger than ever.

Stay well, friends.

Love,

John


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The pandemic isn’t over

It’s a matter of life or death. What is? This: Who you’re listening to. Don’t listen to the stories, the ideological frameworks, the politics, businesses, even your own urges.

Everyone has their agenda; campaigners want to win campaigns; businesses want your money; government officials want to be voted back in office; you just want everything to feel ok. They, and you, are all biased and want something from you. Don’t heed them.

This week we had a school official reach out to us to get our child to come to a meet and greet at his new school, to meet his new teacher, which would be incredible—if it weren’t for the virus ravaging our world population. And the school official emailed repeatedly, asking us to come into the classroom with other kids. Yes, it would be a smallish group, but still indoors with others. We asked if we could do it out of doors. She said no.

We didn’t listen to her.

You shouldn’t listen to them either.

You should listen to the data.

And the data is speaking loudly. It’s saying this.

The virus is alive and well.

And it’s dangerous.


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Is normal worth the risk?

Quarantining, not hugging, being isolated, fighting the virus is exhausting. All of it. We want to get back to living, normal. But friends, we mustn’t rush.

Plunging into seeing people, going to the office, traveling, all of that, isn’t safe no matter what the politicians say, governments do, how those around you behave.

I’m seeing it around me: family, friends, neighbors, in Middle America, wanting life to resume in pre-pandemic style, wishing the virus away, hoping for the best.

At the end of this month my church will resume in-person services. They said they will have protocols to keep people safe.

I doubt it.

And I hope nothing happens; but the questions are How much risk do you want to take? and Is it worth it?

Seeing people is important, so is going to church in person, but is it worth risking your life when there is no treatment or vaccine?

There are things worth risking your life for, like saving another human, your loved ones, standing up for your principles, your faith, to love, serving your country.

But seeing your friends now, traveling for business, going to church when you can do all of that virtually isn’t worth risking the lives of your community, family, friends—your life.

The reality is that the virus is still here, alive—killing.

So, friends, please be patient. I want to run out and hug people, strangers even, but resist the urge to mingle, taking unnecessary risks.

Stay vigilant.

Be patient.

Lots of love, John


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You Have Great Power

You are not powerless; you have a choice.

You can choose to avoid the news, build a routine, exercise, connect with a friend, read a great book—hope.

It’s not easy in this time, I get it.

Shifting your mind from focusing on the negative to healthier activities is your decision.

Decide to feed your mind stories that lift the spirit, move your body even if it’s just for a few minutes, take a walk outside, meditate, pray, get to sleep at a better hour, call someone and ask them how they’re doing, and turn off your notifications for the news.

Whatever you do, make decisions to further your health and, where you can, the health of others.

You have far more power than you may realize.

You are powerful enough to change the way you think and feel.

Lots of love,

John


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These Are the Rules You Should Break

Some rules are stupid.

For example, some people think you shouldn’t ask your boss for a raise because that would upset them. Or you shouldn’t pursue your dream because it’s too risky. Or you shouldn’t invest in the market because you could lose money. Or you shouldn’t get married because happy marriages rarely happen.

But don’t listen to that garbage. There’s always a rule for staying safe.

Those rules, though often well-intentioned, only hold you down. They keep you in fear. They keep you alive but don’t let you live.

Yes, you may crash when you break those rules. And certain people will look at you, click their tongue and say, “See, I told you so…” But don’t mind them.

Some things are scarier than failing.

There’s lying on your deathbed, wondering why you never lived.

Instead live well. Live free.

Live now.


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You Are Blessed Today

Each day is a blessing.

If the virus has taught us anything it is to appreciate the fundamental things in life, the essential, like life itself.

If you’re breathing, that’s good. It’s great. Your lungs work as they should. You’re not on a respirator fighting to catch a tiny breath, feeling like your drowning without a drop a water around you.

You’re alive. Right now. You’re healthy (I hope). If you’re not, you’re still fighting and have a chance to recover, stay alive—live.

This day is a blessing. It’s a gift. You get to experience it. You get to wake up, walk, sip on coffee, taste a morsel of food, shower, read—hope.

We may not have all we want. But we have our lives.

We have today.


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Your world is changing: Dealing with Coronavirus

Quarantine, pandemic, respiratory droplets, contagious, viral (in a bad way), and death are words swirling around the media, and we shouldn’t ignore them. 

My family basically hasn’t left our NYC apartment for a week. My last venture out to a destination where people congregated, like a restaurant, was with a friend at a ramen shop in the neighborhood, and we talked about Coronavirus

nasa-Q1p7bh3SHj8-unsplash
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

In that conversation, I told him my serious concerns about it. He brushed them off. 

The family and I did take some short walks outside this weekend, avoiding large knots of people (we wanted to get outside a little bit), and what I saw was disturbing. 

Everything looks…well…normal. 

People were still everywhere. No one was wearing face masks, except this one Asian girl. Singles, large groups, couples were littered throughout the city, strolling, enjoying the sunny winter day. 

My other friends are also keen on meeting up and grabbing coffee, lunch, etc. Nothing has changed. And our neighbors seem calm. No one is alarmed.

And that’s what’s so concerning: No one seems concerned. 

But we should be. 

This is a serious issue. Death is serious. People are dying. Yes, most of them are elderly, but some are young, young adults, healthy, until they weren’t. This matters; they matter; you matter. 

And if we don’t take precautions and greater concern, we will likely create a worse outcome, spreading the disease more than it would have gone if we were more vigilant. 

See, anyone can get Coronavirus. You can. I can. My kid can. Your kid can. This is about everyone. And yes, you can die from this, too. We all can. 

This virus doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t have compassion. It doesn’t care if you’re famous, powerful, poor, beautiful, crippled. It infects. It inflicts. It kills. 

What can you do? Wash your hands. Stop traveling. Limit meetings or eliminate them, no matter how much you were looking forward to them. Stop hanging out. Stop going to the bar. Stay home. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash them well. With soap! 

That’s not just for yourself but for your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, your country, your world. Let us be good global citizens, people, humans. 

I get it. Behavioral change isn’t easy. Not seeing people sucks. 

This morning I canceled a lunch meeting with a friend that I was excited about seeing today. And we were supposed to eat at this incredible Indian restaurant, in Long Island City, Queens, that serves up dishes that Indians eat at home. I had been waiting to go to this place for weeks. Now, thanks to Coronavirus, I’m eating at home, which is great. But, not the same. 

That’s what it takes to fight something like this virus: Behavioral change. We need to change how we do our days, where we go, how we move, how many times we wash our hands. It needs to be top of mind. 

Ok, so you may not work from home like me. You don’t have that freedom. But you can talk to your boss, manager, CEO, Supreme Ruler, and tell them that you’re concerned and want to discuss the idea of letting you and others work from home. Make your case. You can do that. Why not? It’s worth it. And when you talk to them, make sure you’re at least six feet away from them so you don’t get any respiratory droplets on each other. Seriously. 

That’s what we need these days when we’re facing a possible pandemic. Fight. Grit. Scrappiness. Conversations with your boss, about working from home, had six feet away from each other.

Changing the way we think is a great place to start. Especially you who live in urban centers need to remember that things have changed. Anyone can be a threat. Of course not the person, but the virus that they might be carrying. We are fighting an invisible enemy that can come from anywhere and anyone. And this isn’t for other people. It’s for you, me, our loved ones—us. 

That means you need to change your schedule, your routine, your mind—you. 

US citizens have died. Thousands of humans have lost their lives. Washington state reported two deaths from this. California, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, Texas, and more have reported cases. New York City just found its first. And it looks like this is just getting started. 

But it can be curbed. It can be stopped. We all need to work together. We all need to be concerned.

Yes, I’m freaking out. But that’s not why I’m writing. 

The point isn’t to be afraid. 

It’s about being cautious, taking this seriously, changing ourselves as our world changes. 

Don’t panic. 

Prepare. 

Keep your New Year’s resolution by thinking like this

The size of your resolution isn’t what causes you to quit. It’s because you’re going too fast. If you slow down, you’ll have a better chance at keeping your resolution.

Let me explain.

Maybe you want to get super fit, or land a massive promotion, or make millions in your new business. Those are big resolutions, and that’s great. You should. That’s not the problem.

What is is this. You want results now, or tomorrow, or next week. But that’s not how you reach big goals. That’s not how it works. It’s not fast. It’s slow.

It takes time to get healthy, lose weight, gain muscle, lean out. It takes a lot of work and wins to get a promotion, land that corner office, win that title. And most businesses take years, even decades, to build.

When you rush to achieve that resolution, you will feel defeated when you don’t make the progress you were hoping for after too short of a time. Instead, you need to set your expectations rightly. Extend your timeline—practice patience.

No one wants to hear that, I know. But it is the truth. The good news is that resolutions are achievable. All of what I lined out can be done. You just need to give yourself enough time to accomplish them.

You need to slow down. Take one step at a time. Set your internal clock accordingly, and you won’t feel like a failure because you didn’t lose twenty pounds or gain ten pounds of muscle or start running a 10K yet. You can be content with making those small steps and realize that you are playing the long game. But you’re playing to win.

A lot of reaching your resolutions is in building habits. And those take more time than we’d like to admit. Wendy Wood (affiliate), a research psychologist who’s spent the last three decades studying habits, has seen that different habits take different amounts of time to codify into one’s life. The more complex an act is, the more time it takes to make a habit.

Most of us have heard that it takes thirty to sixty days to create a habit. But Wood found that simple actions like doing some pushups every morning may take that amount of time, but going to the gym and doing a series of workouts would take more, like four or more months.

Habits are powerful. I’ve seen it in my life. Much of what I do that’s good for me is automatic. Doing my workout in the morning, intermittent fasting for twenty hours six days a week, reading fifty pages a day, writing this blog post are all built into my daily routine. I do it without thinking.

Sure, fasting twenty hours every day sucks. And I want to eat breakfast with my family, but it’s a lot easier than when I first started. But when I began forming that as a habit, I fasted for much shorter periods and took my time to get to where I am now. In short, when I started, I expected less of myself.

And I think that’s where a lot of our resolutions get shipwrecked. They are dashed on the rocks of our expectations. We expect ourselves to be much further ahead than we should, and when we aren’t where we think we should be after struggling for a month, we get discouraged, deflated and stop.

Instead, take your time, but also start smaller. Take smaller steps. If I would have tried to fasting every day for twenty hours, at first, I think I would have given up and stuffed my greedy face with all of the food I could find. But, by making my goal ten to twelve hours in the beginning, I was able to build confidence and, more importantly, the habit of intermittent fasting.

As you round out the first week of this fresh new year, you can reach your goals and fulfill your resolutions, even the big ones.

But don’t go fast. Slow down and form habits.

And win.