Your Body, Your Choice (and how it affects everyone else)

“What happened to my body, my choice?”

That’s turned into the popular ‘gotcha’ catchphrase from a large segment of the population that either does not want, or does not believe in, getting the Covid vaccine. Since I (albeit with some shame for waiting so long) recently got my first shot, I guess I have started to notice a little more closely these statements of complete dumbfuckery.

The reason “my body, my choice” has gained such traction on social media sites like Facebook is because it’s often used by individuals on the other side to defend women who get abortions. I hate to speak in generalities, but it’s typically the case that people on the so-called left are pro-choice — i.e. they support women deciding what to do with their own body — and people on the so-called right are pro-life, meaning they believe once a woman gets pregnant she is committing an unforgivable sin if she decides to abort the child.

So now we are dealing with a situation where those conservatives, the ones who believe a woman shouldn’t have control over her body, are saying they should have control over whether or not they get the vaccine. I admit it’s a pretty clever way of turning the tables, but in saying so is also to acknowledge that it’s a completely vapid and unrelated message. To be certain, whomever came up with “my body, my choice” in regards to the vaccine is a genius. But what good is it to be a genius when your target audience is either uniformed, or misinformed?

You see, when a woman decides to abort a child it does not have a real-world impact on anyone other than that woman. It’s her body; it doesn’t affect anyone else. The same, however, cannot be said about refusing to get the Covid vaccine. The impact of one willingly unvaccinated person getting Covid not only affects them, but it affects everyone else who comes in close contact with them. One unvaccinated individual with Covid could give it to five others, and those five others could give it to 25 others, and those 25 could give it to another 125 and on and on we go.

Then people would ask, ‘well, Eric, if people who are vaccinated are still getting Covid, and still passing it along to others, then isn’t it the same thing?’

It’s a basic math equation. Let’s say you are in a room with 10 people — none of whom are vaccinated — and one of them has Covid. That one person might pass it along to six or seven of them, which is where we repeat the exponential cycle from the last paragraph.

Then let’s say you are in a room with 10 people — all of whom are vaccinated — and (still) one of them has Covid. Since everyone is vaccinated, that one person might only pass it along to one or two others. Or maybe zero. As such, that one or two (or zero) people will ultimately not spread the virus as easily.

Listen, I waited until fucking August to get my first vaccine shot. I am miles away from being the standard bearer to take advice from. It does bother me that my laziness and overall passivity in doing the necessary thing took so long. I was just hoping enough of the country would do it before me, flatten the curve, and I could get on with my life without the burden of following through with my patriotic duty.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Despite the vaccine, and despite the optimism of the last few months that society was actually turning the corner, the Delta variant came along and smacked us all right in the mouth. Now it’s almost like we are back at square one. The progress seemingly made was merely a mirage, a light at the end of a tunnel that suddenly went black again.

To this point 168 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, a figure that represents 51.1% of the population. That is certainly a start, but if the last month or so has taught us anything it’s that those numbers aren’t anywhere close to being good enough. I know very little, but it’s probably safe to say that the world won’t be back to normal until the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals crosses over in the 80-85% threshold. And even that might not be enough.

To illustrate the point I was making above — the one about 10 people being in a room — we see the one true upside to getting the vaccine: it reduces the Covid symptoms enough to keep you out of the hospital. Anti-vax truthers would argue that the point is moot because even vaccinated people are still occupying hospital beds. But in this particular ratio — 521 to 13 — the percentage of unvaccinated sits at an overwhelming 97.6%. We are not comparing apples to apples here.

At a certain point it’s not going to matter what anyone says. The proof is going to be evident by virtue of people still having to wear masks, of the government continuing to give relief to unemployed workers and billionaire business owners alike, and so on. Unless most everyone gets on the same page and goes through with getting vaccinated, we are going to be living in a sort of groundhog day where new strains of the virus keep popping up and people continue getting sick.

Operating under this assumption, I imagine a time will come — perhaps sooner than fucking around and finding out later — when private companies start forcing their workers to get the vaccine. It just makes too much sense. Corporations are driven by capital, and the pandemic is affecting the ability of many businesses to maximize their profits. If given the choice between receiving the vaccine or losing their job, most workers will choose the path that maintains their livelihood.

Related: since I began writing this a few days ago, MGM Resorts International “announced on Monday that the COVID-19 vaccine will be a condition on employment for all salaried employees and new hires throughout the United States.” For now it’s just salaried workers and new hires, but that would seem to be the logical first step before requiring its broader workforce — that is, everyone else — to get the vaccine as well.

A month or two ago I would have felt agnostic towards that idea, but as the situation stands right now it might be the necessary thing to do. I’m of course saying this having already gotten my first shot (so I may be front-running), but it’s also true that I want the country to get back to normal. Everything leads back to that.

“My body, my choice” makes sense when it comes to situations like abortion. It makes sense if you want to eat red meat for every meal and die of heart failure before your 50th birthday. It makes sense if you want to do heroine, or snort up all the cocaine, or imbibe on hard liquor until your liver calls it quits. In all of those cases it’s your body. And goddamn if it isn’t your choice then you should want to leave the country.

When it comes to the Covid vaccine, your body affects everyone else’s body, too. I get that this is America and we have all grown comfortable with freedoms that aren’t available in many other places. It’s almost an instinct with most Americans that whenever someone tells us we ought to do something, we go the opposite way. It’s in our nature and our blood; it’s ultimately what drove our founders to create what is now known as the United States.

The key to those two precious words is “United.” This country is currently at an impasse where it’s left versus right, or liberal versus conservative, or for people like me it’s leftist versus establishment. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I just know that doctors and scientists know a helluva lot more than I do, and the numbers are on the board. Vaccinated people are healthier and less susceptible to the grave danger that Covid presents than those who are unvaccinated.

One thing that should unify everybody is that wearing a mask sucks. Social distancing sucks. Pretty much everything about this situation sucks. But if we are ever going to make it out it’s not going to be by the brush of a magic wand, or of god suddenly deciding that it’s all going to be okay again. It’s going to take a shot, and then it’s going to take another shot. I am only halfway there and I hate that many of my brothers and sisters are going to be forced into doing something they would rather not.

But so long as the “my body, my choice” crowd plans on holding out, we are going to have a lot less choices to make when it comes to what we do with those bodies of ours.

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