Don’t ask people why they were vaccinated

Illustration for the article titled Don't ask people why they were vaccinated

Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP (fake images)

The doses of any of the four COVID-19 vaccines currently in circulation are coveted around the world. Being shot in the arm is cause for celebration – it is humanity’s most effective means of finally preventing the pandemic that has killed 525,000 Americans in the span of a year.

Understandably, people are posting their shots with happy selfies, broadcasting their triumphs to friends, family, and the general public. But with vaccine selfies the question arises: How did you qualify to receive your vaccine?

Even with vaccine envy running rampant, this is not a question to ask. Requirements to receive a vaccine in the United States are well known at the moment: To receive a vaccine in your state, you must meet a certain age requirement or live with at least one of several comorbidities. Not everyone wants to reveal whether or not they have a disease that qualifies them for a vaccine. And they shouldn’t have to.

Not everyone wants their illness to be public

Someone you know may not have demonstrable signs of illness, but they may have dealt with an illness for their entire life. Reveal a difficult diagnosis such as cancer it is quite difficult when limited to friends and family. When someone has to explain to an acquaintance that they have long struggled with a disease, it can place an undue emotional burden on the person receiving the vaccine.

Before COVID-19, people with chronic diseases already anticipated stigma and ostracism in society at large. TO 2011 study by Yale researchers and published by the National Institutes of Health investigated the relationship between social stigma and chronic diseases.

The researchers looked at how chronic diseases can invade the lives of affected people, often in ways beyond their control.

People diagnosed with chronic illnesses report experiencing social rejection, layoff in the workplace, and poor medical care due to their chronic illness. Importantly, people living with chronic illnesses can come to anticipate stigma. Anticipated stigma is the belief that prejudice, discrimination, and stereotypes will be directed at oneself by others in the future.

The person who received a vaccine may not be enthusiastic about disclosing how they scored, for fear that they will be viewed as different or perceived as weak.

There is also the issue of the body mass index and the stigmatization of obesity. People with a BMI over 30 qualify for vaccines. It is a rating that does not everyone who qualifies through BMI is an enthusiast and, without a doubt, anyone has the right to keep this information private.

You’re meddling if you ask

If someone is not from your immediate family or a close friend, their health is not really your concern. Plus, you risk making them feel guilty. While each dose is undeniably essential, it remains true that people who get doses may feel like they are lucky enough to qualify, and that someone else needs them more.

You may alienate someone who is already dealing with the complicated feelings that come with receiving a vaccine. There are only a finite number of doses, although the United States is expected to have enough to vaccinate everyone who wants a shot in May. Given the slow and cumbersome process of vaccine distribution, it is possible that someone who receives an injection could suffer a case of vaccine guilt, even if they have a comorbidity that legitimately qualifies them for an injection while supplies are limited.

The point is: don’t ask unless you’re already on terms with the person where both of you can express openness and vulnerability to each other. If you are not on those terms, just congratulate the person on receiving their vaccine. Not all diseases are visible. Someone you know may have diabetes or an autoimmune disorder that qualifies you. And if they don’t want you to know about your health, they have the right not to tell you.


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