I’ve noticed a sharp increase of unnecessary judgment among friends regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. Many people who have received the vaccine believe that the unvaccinated are “stupid,” “idiots,” or “have a low IQ”. Meanwhile, the unvaccinated are immediately shushed when they discuss their concerns, further diminishing their desire to get the vaccine. I have great friends who are on both sides - from friends who work for the Department of Health to friends who don’t support vaccines in general. And guess what? They all make great points. President Woodrow Wilson famously stated, “If you come at me with your fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if you come to me and say, ‘Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ from each other, understand why it is that we differ… we will presently find that … if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will get together.” Let’s have the patience to get together and try to examine both sides to better understand each other.

First, why do people want the vaccine? The reasons are obvious. They fall in a high risk category. They believe it works. They are tired of the pandemic lifestyle and will do anything and everything to try to get the world back to normal. Many colleges and companies are requiring the vaccine, so they have to get it in order to continue their education and keep their jobs. They believe they are doing their civic duty by getting the vaccine, thereby keeping everyone else safe. The government told them to get it. They want to travel and the country they are traveling to required vaccination. These are all great, valid reasons.

Most people have gotten the vaccine and fall into one of the aforementioned categories. But what about the people who haven’t gotten it? I’ve noticed that most of the judgment comes from the pro-vaccine side, so I’d like to help shed some light on your friends that haven’t gotten the vaccine. Warning: before you read this, take a deep breath. If you are truly trying to be a good person and get the vaccine, then try to be a good person and understand why your friend doesn’t want to get the vaccine. Okay now take another deep breath. Promise that you’ll really try to understand where your friend is coming from. When you take the emotion of COVID-19 out of the equation, you’ll see that their points are incredibly valid too. They differ from you, but they still deserve kindness.

People may choose not to get vaccinated if they fall into a high-risk category and their doctors recommend not getting it. Yes, you read that right. I know various people who have been told to not get the vaccine because of their health conditions. But wait, isn’t that a reason why people get the vaccine? Yes. Everyone is different. This is such an important point to remember as we talk about Covid-19, the vaccine, and everything else in life: everyone is different. No amount of ‘different’ calls for judgment. Remember that.

They already had Covid and therefore have natural immunity. According to the CDC’s website, natural immunity is a type of active immunity which is “long-lasting, and sometimes life-long.” While we aren’t sure how long natural immunity from Covid lasts, we do know that it is, as defined by the CDC, “long-lasting.” Some people who have previously had Covid believe that they don’t need a vaccine because they have immunity.

They want to wait until the vaccine is FDA approved (Pfizer is almost there). They’ve weighed the risks of getting Covid-19 and the risks of getting an experimental vaccine (that’s what it is until it is FDA approved). Because of the timeline of diseases - first comes the disease, then comes the vaccine - there’s just more information available on Covid-19 than there is on the vaccine. They’ve seen the 99% survival rate of getting Covid-19 and they are okay with risking it for themselves. Furthermore, we now know that even a vaccinated person can get and spread Covid - the perks of the vaccine are that your symptoms aren’t as severe. The unvaccinated ask: why does the severity of my symptoms matter to anyone besides me?

They are pregnant or nursing and are afraid of any damage it could cause to the baby. Again, because the disease comes before the vaccine, there is more research on the effects of Covid-19 on babies. That same amount of research is not yet available for the vaccine. That’s not anyone’s fault, that’s just the way timelines work. Mothers will do anything to protect their children and are often uneasy about the unknown effects of new medication while pregnant or nursing.

They’ve seen the numbers on the CDC’s website. The flu and common cold were suddenly cured during this flu season, with only 2,038 cases - across the entire USA. (To provide perspective, the previous year’s flu season had 38 million cases.) Ironically, the Covid numbers in that same general time period, from mid-November 2020 to mid-January 2021, were triple what they were in the first 7 months of the pandemic. Ironic? Or did the flu just become Covid?

Many people who have not gotten the vaccine note the lack of transparency about the vaccine. They don’t like that they aren’t able to get all of the facts. Albert Einstein famously said, “the important thing is to never stop questioning.” Why does this apply to everything except the vaccine? They are censored by Big Tech, by the government, and by their friends who shut down any questions they have. They want to talk it out before making the decision but the world won’t let them. They are labeled as stupid for wanting to get more information. They are called dumb because they question the effects this might have on their body. When they find an article or a video from someone who is also questioning, they become scared when the article or video is censored and taken down. Since when is asking questions a bad thing, especially when it comes to medicine for their own body? Inconsistencies always lead to questions - new medicines always have inconsistencies, and that’s okay, that’s just how the timeline works when the medicine is new. It’s nothing against this particular vaccine. Why aren’t they allowed to question why their vaccinated friends aren’t getting their periods anymore? Why do their other friends have nerve damage at the site of the vaccine administration and have been in physical therapy for months? If the CDC was open about saying “this may be an effect; we’re looking into it,” these people would feel more at ease. They just want to know what they’re signing up for.

The CDC has recognized the lack of confidence in the vaccine from various populations and they have a “building vaccine confidence” section of their website. Unfortunately, many people don’t trust the CDC anymore. Many people attribute this lack of trust to the misleading Covid case count over the past 1.5 years. Before you dismiss this, remember deep breaths. I’ve heard of this happening a lot, but you can never fully believe stories of people you don’t know, right? What I do believe is firsthand stories of my friends. One friend is an ICU nurse and saw the Covid unit daily. Her grandfather, who lived in another state, had been declining for years; he finally passed away in November 2020. When they saw his death certificate, they were shocked to see the reason for death as Covid… especially considering family members were always with him and he was never tested for Covid. Another friend is an ER nurse; a patient was in critical condition from a motorcycle accident. He died within hours- but he tested positive for Covid and was counted as a Covid death. She quit her job. Granted, these two cases were at the hospital level - so why do people distrust the CDC? These hospital reports go directly to the CDC.

Finally, people want agency. They don’t like feeling pressured into getting the vaccine so with each added pressure - from talk of vaccine mandates to vaccine passports- they turn further away from it. When they are called dumb when their questions are scoffed at when they are told they have to get this vaccine or lose their job - their desire to get it lessens. If the government truly wanted everyone to get the vaccine, they should remember the Tom Sawyer fence story: if you want someone to do something, they need to know why it will benefit them. The White House is full of politicians - they should know that the best way to win an argument is not through guilt, bribery, or blame. The best way to win an argument is to make the person understand why that choice is the best choice for them personally. A popular pro-life argument is “my body, my choice” - why does that only apply to terminating pregnancies? Why doesn’t it apply to a simple shot?

One of the most convincing arguments I’ve heard was from my immunocompromised friend. Instead of irrationally lashing out, she said, “do whatever makes sense to you and your family to stay safe.” I echo her sentiment. Do whatever makes sense to you and your family to stay safe. Be kind, and stay safe.