Why It Feels So Uncomfortable To Resume Your Life After Your Vaccine
It can be uncomfortable to make or reveal "normal" plans after a year of strict social rules. (Photo: Thomas Barwick via Getty Images)
We were told that vaccinated people can safely hang out in groups without a mask. We were also told that the risk of being hospitalized or dying - let alone getting COVID-19 - is extremely small after vaccination.
Then why does it still feel so strange to make plans when you are fully vaccinated? And why does it feel even stranger telling people about these plans?
To sum it up, a lot was decided about people's behavior during the pandemic. There is no denying that certain superspreader events should probably and could have been avoided, but along the way we've gotten into the habit of shaming and blaming people for anything and everything.
A year later, it won't be easy to shake off all the shame and stigma associated with certain activities, so doing certain things almost feels wrong - like going to the gym, visiting family, or going out eat - once you have been fully vaccinated. However, the evidence shows time and time again that the vaccines are incredible and drastically reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus. Vaccinated people should feel safer - without shame - for most of their lives, according to the data on the overwhelming effectiveness of the vaccines.
Instead of feeling like you are breaking the rules - which you are not! - Confidently showing others how the vaccine has helped you can be a powerful public health tool. This can build confidence in the vaccine, and you may encourage friends and family members who are reluctant to have the vaccine to get the vaccinations so they can enjoy some of the normalcy that they allow.
That's why it still feels uncomfortable
The whole reason it's awkward to make plans and share what you're up to after vaccination is because people's actions during the pandemic have been scrutinized so closely.
According to Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco, the country has adopted a "snitch-based, shame-based approach" in which people have been shamed and encouraged to engage in activities that are riskier .
"We shame, shame, shame - to this day, even if the CDC has said you can," said Gandhi.
As a result of all this shame, we've learned to equate certain activities - like eating indoors, traveling, hanging out with friends, or exercising at the gym - as bad or risky. We shouldn't put people to shame for the primary purpose of meeting their general physical and mental needs, said Lucy McBride, an internal medicine practitioner in Washington, DC. Even though the risk of getting COVID-19 is still unvaccinated in people, it's a whole different story when it comes to vaccinated people. It's time to update our files.
It can be difficult to understand that activities that have been stigmatized so badly no longer pose the same risks for people who have been vaccinated. "Now we are actually trying to build confidence in the vaccines, but that shame, fear and embarrassment remains," Gandhi said.
If you talk about how the vaccine allows you to resume some normal activities, you may be able to convince others to get vaccinated. (Photo: SDI Productions via Getty Images)
It can be helpful to talk about how the vaccine changed your life
It can actually be extremely useful to talk about how the vaccine changed our lives.
Showing that you have been vaccinated and are able to enjoy certain activities again, exposed and undisturbed, can give friends and family members confidence in the vaccines, Gandhi said. It might even motivate people who are nervous about the gunshots to go out and get vaccinated.
To achieve herd immunity and stop COVID-19, about 70% of the population must be immune (either through vaccination or previous infection), and currently about 29.1% of Americans are fully vaccinated and 42.7% have had a dose .
It can be encouraging to meet public figures like Dr. To hear Anthony Fauci talk about the vaccines on TV, but it is the real stories of people in our inner circles that make the greatest impact. Talking to friends and family about how the vaccine changed your life can be a powerful public health tool.
"We should encourage people to promote the freedoms that vaccinations give you," said McBride. "We need more trustworthy messengers."
As more people get vaccinated, Gandhi hopes our conversations will shift from what makes us uncomfortable to all of the things we are comfortable with.
If you're still ashamed, or even ashamed of having plans after vaccination, think about the facts, Gandhi advised. The latest data looked at 87 million Americans vaccinated and found that the chances of developing symptomatic breakthrough infection, hospitalization, or death are infinitely small.
If you look at the science you will know that after vaccination you will be well protected against COVID-19.
"Your risk of death and serious illness is gone, your risk of developing COVID-19 is so low, and every day when we put 4 million shots in the arms, your risk goes even lower," said McBride. Shame is not a way to motivate people. The facts are however.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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