Shots are a part of my life. I self-inject medication once a week to manage my psoriatic arthritis. It stings for about 10 seconds, but it maintains my quality of life. Psoriatic arthritis is the inflammatory autoimmune disease for which the golfer Phil Mickelson helped bring awareness. When I was first diagnosed, my swollen, painful joints made simple tasks difficult. Sometimes, I couldn't walk without a cane, and back spasms also made sitting painful. On the worst days, I was bedridden and heartbroken. I wanted more from my life. So, when biologic treatments became available (like the ones for which Mickelson is the spokesperson), I was ready. I wanted my life back.
Biologic injections were new on the market then and scary for many. They weaken my immune system by design, making me more susceptible to infection. However, autoimmune arthritis left uncontrolled is not only physically debilitating but also can increase the risk for infection. I needed more shots, vaccines specifically. I knew a flu shot was important each year prior to my diagnosis, but I was lackadaisical about it and took care of it when it was convenient for me.
Now I get vaccinated and schedule appointments for my family as soon as the vaccines are available each fall. I also get two different pneumonia vaccines every five years. Maybe this is why when a COVID-19 vaccine became available, I scheduled my inoculation as soon as I was able to do so (Team Pfizer, here). I am also prepared to get a third booster shot if it is deemed beneficial. Its importance is not lost on me.
I once got a glimpse of what it's like to contract a virus with no treatment. I remember walking into the doctor's office wearing sunglasses; my whole body shook from pain in my head like I'd never experienced before. I carried a bucket with me because the pain made me vomit. I had viral meningitis. With no standard treatment, my only choice was to nurse the pain and wait it out with my doctor's instructions to go to the emergency room if I got any worse. I was not only sick; I was scared.
COVID-19 affects people differently. It's not predictable how each person will react. One cannot assume because they're young and healthy, for instance, that they will be fine, asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms. It's time to take the guesswork out of contracting COVID-19. Stop playing the odds, and get vaccinated.
Beyond the pandemic deniers, the pushback to getting vaccinated boils down to fear. Fear of rare side effects. Fear of missing work. Mistrust in the vaccine's speedy approval process, big government, corporate medicine or overall long-term unknowns. This fear prompts justifications for concerns and then settles on a decision that the vaccine is just not worth the trouble. But it is.
Over 600,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 so far. July 26 marked the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and President Joe Biden honored the day by announcing resources to support individuals with "long COVID." There are far more risks for contracting COVID-19 than receiving the vaccine.
Like Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently said, "I can't make you take care of yourself." But I will try to encourage you with great urgency and confidence. When the choice is between a deadly or debilitating infection and a new vaccine? I'll choose the vaccine every time.
Check out Bonnie's weekly YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/bonniejeanfeldkamp. To find out more about Bonnie Jean Feldkamp and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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