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In Defense of Others

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Dear Everyone:

This week my feed was flooded with photos of colleagues getting their first Covid19 vaccination. They had sleeves rolled up and huge smiles of happiness that lit up their eyes despite their masks.

The joy and relief we all feel at reaching the halfway point in this pandemic supermarathon can’t be quantified. Yes, there is a long road ahead, but there is a light in the darkness.

And we are all responsible for what happens next.

Just like mask wearing and social distancing, getting vaccinated isn’t simply about protecting self. It is about reaching that critical threshold where there are so many vaccinated “bricks in the wall” that the virus no longer has anywhere to travel. This is how we reach herd immunity.

While we are still in the early phases of vaccine distribution, now is a good time to begin focusing on our mindset:

First, realize there are still hard months ahead and that our hospitals – and more importantly, our doctors and nurses – are at or beyond capacity. Make the decision to help by continuing to mask, social distance, and stay home as much as possible. We need to do this for each other for just a little longer.

The current surge in infection, hospitalization and death is a direct consequence of travel and gathering at Thanksgiving. Please be thoughtful and protective -- not just of you and yours, but of countless others you’ll never meet. Someone loves them, too.

Second, make the decision to get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you. This is not the time for “wait and see.” This is a time to act in defense of others – of family, friends, community and country. Please, choose to hear and heed the science, not the ridiculous, political fear-mongering rhetoric.

The science is solid. You may not remember (or realize) but we averted coronavirus epidemics in 2002 (MERS) and again in 2012 (SARS). Coronaviruses have been extensively studied in the decade+ since, and we already had an strong foundation for the development of this vaccine. We owe an army of dedicated researchers an enormous debt of gratitude.

Science is how we get back to normal.

We won’t see full recovery of our schools, our businesses or our economy until we pass a threshold of approximately 70% vaccination rates in the general population. This will require deliberate selflessness from each of us.

Finally, please be patient and kind. We’re all going to need more stamina, and a lot of us are feeling pretty tapped out. Don’t make assumptions about motives in the months to come. Instead, get curious and invite honest, reflective conversation. We help each other when we recognize fear, fatigue and frustration as part of our shared experience and make the choice to respond with compassion rather than react with anger or disdain.

If we make the right choices now, there will be fewer empty chairs at the table in 2021.

With love, hope and my best wishes to everyone for a safe, healthy, joyous holidays.

Dr. K

photo credit: Dr. Ni-Cheng Liang


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