As to be expected, the current news cycle is dominated by stories about the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. One national TV news anchor even described the vaccine as being a miracle. I will leave it to higher powers whether or not the vaccine is actually a miracle.
One national TV news story I saw showed healthcare-related workers being administered the vaccine. The story then showed one of the workers going to visit his elderly father whom he had not seen in person in over 6 months. Really? The vaccine affords immunity that quickly?
The good news is that the visit was what we call here in Maine a dooryard visit. The visit was outside (the worker stood on the walkway while his father stood on the porch). The appropriate physical distancing was maintained and both wore face coverings.
If the facts surrounding this story are accurate, (and I have no reason to believe they are not), what makes this in person encounter suddenly “safe”? Surely it cannot simply be that the health care related worker was vaccinated just a short while before.
Unless there is something about the COVID-19 vaccine I either don’t know or understand, immunization from COVID-19 is not instantly conferred upon the administration of the vaccine. Like any vaccine, following injection of the COVID-19 vaccine, the body builds immunity overtime in response to the vaccine. This means in this case that the only difference was psychological or mindset in nature. The healthcare related worker believed it was now safe for him to visit his elderly father in person because he had been vaccinated against COVID-19. He apparently believed it was not safe before he got his first shot.
Since the pandemic hit in March, I’ve been arguing that social distancing is not healthy and won’t stop the spread of the covid-19 virus if we practice social distancing. Rather than social distancing, what we need to be practicing is physical distancing. Physical distancing is what will help to stop the spread of the virus. Physical distancing is exactly what the health care-related worker did in this story. Given the current explosion in mental illness, psychological disruption and increased feelings of loneliness and isolation as a result of our social distancing efforts, we need to focus on safely increasing in person contact while we all await the availability of the vaccine to all who want it.
Having been given the vaccine should not be the only reason people feel they can now safely resume in person contact. We need to feel safe with in-person contact within the parameters put forth by the public health community. The mental wellness of people demands no less.
While the arrival of a covid-19 vaccine is great news, it is important to remember two things:
1. The presence of the vaccine will not return us to our pre-COVID lifestyles. As the pandemic wanes, a new normal will eventually emerge. Hopefully it will be a new, better normal, but it most certainly will not be our old normal.
2. The presence and availability of a vaccine will no doubt reduce some of the current feelings of uncertainty many are experiencing, but it will not significantly impact our mental wellness.
We can beat back loneliness, disconnection, and isolation. We can and must do better addressing these issues. After all, it appears to simply be a mindset issue and we can readily change our mindset.
©2020. William McPeck. All Rights Reserved.