Now maybe no one will really care about this but, just so you know, the Minnesota Straubs have all been vaccinated—Rebecca last Wednesday, Joshua on Thursday and I on Saturday. We all decided on the J&J single shot vaccine. I realize there is some risk involved. But life involves risk. As my good friend Frodo Baggins, quoting Bilbo, reminded his friend Sam Gamgee as they were about to leave the Shire, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Life involves risk. Getting out of bed, driving a car, flying on an airplane, going to the mall. One just never knows when our ticket will be punched and we will draw our last breath.
So why did we get vaccinated and why should you care? Clearly some of you won’t care, so feel free to read no further. Some might care and think we were misguided, stupid, fearful, naïve, etc. But, some will care, either because they are trying to make up their own minds about being vaccinated or because they care about us. Why did we get vaccinated?
Let me offer several reasons why the three Straubs decided to get the J&J shot at this time. First the easiest part of this to explain. We got J&J because it is one and done. Simple enough—if you are going to get a shot, why get two if one will do? It was available near us and we got it done. End of story. Yes, there may be some risk. But risk is a part of life. The risk is primarily for women 50 and under. My wife looks in her 40s but alas, she has seen well over 50 winters. Neither Joshua nor I fit the “women under 50” category, so didn’t it seem to be an issue.
Many know that we all had COVID in early November. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, and we were advised that we really didn’t need to worry about getting a shot until at least the summer, but we decided to get one sooner, first because COVID-19 is a real threat. The longer this goes on, the more people are impacted by the virus. Sure, I grant that the mortality rate is quite small, however, in the US, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death last year according to the CDC. Compare that with the mortality rate for influenza the year before, with the CDC estimating total deaths from the flu at 34,000 or about 10% of the number of people taken by COVID the following year. We have received flu shots in the fall for years without issue, so why, in theory, would we reject getting a COVID shot?
Second, we care for a disabled man and we need to hire staff to enter our home to help us care for him. We have no way of knowing who these caregivers come into contact with and it just seems prudent that we protect ourselves against their possible transmission of the virus to us, unwittingly to be sure. As a point of fact, we think that we got COVID in November from a man that visited in our home a few days after he and his wife had been infected at a sports gathering. By the time they were aware of their positive COVID diagnosis, our exposure had taken place and all three of us got the virus. The virus spread that quickly. Since the beginning of COVID, we have lost two full-time PCAs to COVID with one getting “COVID toes” where COVID affects the skin. We need to do everything we can do to mitigate our exposure and the exposure of our workers for their health and others. The vaccine seemed the prudent thing to do.
Third, it is anyone’s guess how important “having a vaccine” will become for international travel. Will the world refuse entrance of unvaccinated people into their countries? Who can say? The idea of vaccine passports has people up in arms, but having a vaccine to travel in and of itself is not new. I had to have a yellow fever shot to go to Zambia because I was flying through South Africa on the return trip and South Africa requires those coming into SA to be vaccinated for yellow fever to enter. Why should COVID be any different in principle these days? Last week it was announced that the US cruise industry is talking about reopening based on travelers having had COVID vaccines. We are not planning on taking a cruise anytime soon. But the world may require a vaccine and I hope to travel abroad this summer, so why wait until the last minute to get ready?
Fourth, we live in a world where people are genuinely fearful of death and COVID. We like interacting with people, especially people who do not share our faith, but being unvaccinated will likely hinder people feeling comfortable being around us. Why would we put an impediment in the way of being hospitable to others? I also recognize that COVID is real and can be deadly in certain circumstances. A very close friend was in hospital and out of his pulpit for ten weeks with COVID pneumonia. He lost his in-laws to COVID who were in their 90s but otherwise healthy, ten days apart and had four church members succumb to the virus. I spoke with him on Monday, and he told me of a mutual friend I have known for more than 40 years who contracted COVID, spending something like 30 days in hospital who died last week! He was 65. Wow! This is real. I know a number of other pastors that have had COVID with varying levels of difficulty. Why not do what we can to mitigate getting it and its spread?
Fifth, getting a vaccine is not about my rights. Of course, we all have rights, but I cannot take a weapon and target practice in my back yard. My rights are curtailed for the safety of others. What will Christians do if the government requires vaccinations? Or if your employer does or the school board does? Eric Metaxas, a well-known author has become the darling of the anti-vaxxers. Of course, he is within his rights to hold any position he likes but many Christians, thankfully, are not following his lead. Why is it that evangelicals are so resistant to the vaccine? Thankfully some men I know are speaking out, encouraging their flock to be vaccinated. This brother almost died, and he just lost his long-time school administrator, a man with whom I attended university.
Let each of us be fully persuaded in our own minds. I’m glad we got vaccinated. If things turn out badly, and I succumb to the vaccine, do not weep for my loss but rejoice for my gain. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So why don’t I just skip the shot and pray for heaven? For the same reason I don’t walk in the middle of the highway. I don’t tempt God. For us, walking in wisdom means getting vaccinated.