“Are you getting the COVID-19 vaccine?”

In a world deeply divided on the coronavirus, I was hesitant to answer the question. Personal health, individual freedom, peace of mind, community wellbeing, and other values / belief systems come into play to make that decision.

When the pandemic first began, I decided not to take a COVID vaccine. I have been an intermittent user of the medical system (walk-ins and emergencies) due to my own evolving beliefs around physical and emotional wellbeing.

For over a year, I have been keenly following news from around the world on strategies to tackle this new virus. It was an insight to each country’s values and resources. I discovered that I hadn’t known anything as contagious as the coronavirus in recent times.

Being born and raised in India, community (or shared reality) is the default lens I view my experiences through. It’s difficult for me to go with personal freedom when they are many more vulnerable than me. Certain segments of our society have been burdened by the pandemic more than others – healthcare workers, elders especially in facilities, caregivers, and frontline workers. The latter two are often the lowest paid workers – predominantly women, youth, temporary foreign workers, and new immigrants. They don’t have a choice of jobs or the choice to work from home.

I decided to do my part to trip up the virus, even if the vaccine might only make a temporary dent in the transmission.
So, I didn’t feel exhilarated or relieved when I got the vaccine that morning.

I feel I did my part – my responsibility for being part of society – like when I vote, without knowing what the outcome is going to be. Because if I didn’t, I could still be playing a part in the outcome.

I feel some of the lessons from the pandemic is realizing how connected we are and that inequalities exist. I hope we don’t lose sight of that, even if some feel safer after getting the vaccine.

Rashmi Narayan