I went to Pennsylvania last weekend to attend an old friend’s wedding. It was great fun. I hadn’t seen most of the people there since the pandemic hit. And COVID was still on a lot of people’s minds.
Interestingly, only a few had ever contracted the virus or at least hadn’t been aware they had. Doctors are now saying it’s likely that most people have had it, but if they were asymptomatic, they might never have known.
In any case, most of these friends, like me, generally wear a COVID mask. I wear the N-95, which my daughter and older grandson routinely tell me I’m wearing all wrong and generously offer to fix.
I know what many of you are thinking. We’re dinosaurs. Or maybe we’re just older — a word some prefer to the old-fashioned “old” — people who prefer not to have to be treated for COVID or, presumably even worse, possibly die. This may surprise you, but people actually do still get sick. Every day. And some do still die. Every day. Three hundred eighty-three across the nation on Sept. 8.
And the latest news, from JAMA Pediatrics, is that 10.5 million children across the globe have lost at least one parent or a caretaker to COVID. Yeah, it’s still bad.
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The wedding itself was outdoors, and while no one checked, it said on the invitation that it was assumed everyone there was fully vaccinated and boosted. Not to be too cynical, but if I had to take a wild guess, I’d say — knowing the odds — that everyone wasn’t.
But because the wedding was outdoors and the people I sat next to definitely were all boosted because, as I mentioned, we’re old (or older), I felt relatively secure.
But the dinner and dancing that followed the wedding — my dancing, by the way, is exactly as it was when I was young, meaning laughably bad — were indoors, and no one was wearing masks. My good friend Sandy, looking worriedly at the mask-free event, kept saying she was sure we’d all get COVID. And die.
And yet I’m happy to report that a week later, I haven’t heard that any of my friends had come down with COVID, and I’m pretty sure I’d have been informed if anyone, other than the queen, had died.
I still wear a mask anyway. In airports. On planes. At movies. At the doctor’s office. (Have you noticed that in doctor’s offices, they all want you to wear a mask, and the people working — doctors, nurses, staff — usually all wear masks? Think there’s a reason for that?)
My grandkids still wear masks at school, even though most kids and most teachers do not. Their mother — my law-professor daughter —- who has an autoimmune disease, as do I, insists on it.
But I understand why so many people no longer do.
Back in the pre-vaccine days, many of us used to make fun of those who didn’t wear them, especially the ones in supermarkets who were caught on cell phones raging about how COVID was a hoax hatched by lefty pedophiles. They steadfastly refused to join in on the effort even when thousands were dying of the virus on a daily basis. It was mostly about politics then, but not so much now.
I bring up the masks not because I expect any more people to wear them. Peer pressure, one of my favorite pressures, is all but gone, and now, if you wear a mask, you risk looking like either a zealot or a dork. In case anyone’s asking, I prefer to go with zealot. Just sayin’.
I bring up the masks because I get it. If you’re wearing them right, I’m told they’re not exactly comfortable. And if hardly anyone is wearing them, then, goes the logic, hardly anyone else will wear them.
What I don’t get, though, is what people are calling “vaccine fatigue.”
As you’ve probably heard, there are new boosters out. These vaccines are specifically designed to deal with omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. No, I don’t know exactly what a subvariant is either, but I do know, because I read it in John Ingold’s Sun story, that these two subvariants account for 93% of Colorado COVID infections. For you math-challenged out there, 93% means nearly all the infections.
The story asks the question: How many Coloradans will actually get the new boosters? The betting is not all that many. The numbers have gone down with each new available shot. There’s little reason to think this time will be any different.
There are many reasons to have COVID fatigue. I mean, we all want our lives back.
We want to eat in restaurants, go to bars, go to ball games, go to the movies, go wherever the hell we want to go. And many of us have been doing just that for a while. And now many more businesses are insisting that their employees come back to the office, even if they have not been vaccinated and certainly without any mask requirement.
Until these new vaccines, the available boosters were the same vaccine that came into relatively wide use two years ago. I’ve gotten two shots and two boosters since then, but I keep hearing that the efficacy of the shots wanes over time and that these subvariants are extremely contagious. So I’m always prepared when the next shot is recommended, even if it means that Big Pharma gets richer. In case you’re concerned, Big Pharma will get richer whether you take the shot or not.
The new shot is called a bivalent vaccine because, the experts tell us, it puts our immune system to work on several subvariants simultaneously. That’s the way flu shots work — because each year’s flu is usually slightly different from the one the year before — but if you don’t get your annual flu shot, you almost certainly won’t get what may become an annual bivalent COVID shot.
I don’t know why. It’s easy. It’s free. It’s increasingly available. And even if most experts tell us that with two shots and a booster, your chances of getting severe COVID are not all that high, they’re probably higher than if you don’t get the new booster. And, of course, we don’t yet know who gets long COVID or why or just how bad it might turn out to be.
And so, if it’s me, I get the shot. I’m a big believer in both free and easy — so big, I’m getting mine first thing next week.
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