Vaccine as a learner’s permit

BY ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN, Columnist
Posted 5/19/21

I celebrate last week’s updated guidelines from the CDC. Not only do the vaccines safeguard an overwhelming majority of recipients from COVID-19, the vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing …

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Vaccine as a learner’s permit

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Staff photo by Peyton Sickles
Posted

I celebrate last week’s updated guidelines from the CDC. Not only do the vaccines safeguard an overwhelming majority of recipients from COVID-19, the vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing serious cases that require hospitalization. This gives many people a whole new sense of freedom.

I love that a doctor in New York City wrote the following prescription for a vaccinated patient: “You are allowed to hug your granddaughter.”

As I am fully vaccinated, I can safely resume many activities with people I love: dinner dates, backyard barbeques and beach trips with extended family.

I want others to experience such joys in community. But not everyone is eligible to receive the vaccine. There are people with medical conditions that make the vaccine too risky and others for whom their health issues render the vaccine much less effective.

And I am ever mindful of people ineligible for the vaccine because they are under the age of 12, including my three young children.

The feeling of being vaccinated has reminded me of receiving my learner’s permit to drive. After waiting for what seemed like forever, I was finally out on the road in my (parents’) car! I was giddy with the intoxicating, heady feeling of liberation!

But would it have been safe for me, or for the people around me, if I could have put the pedal to the metal without any limits or parental oversight? Especially with my rowdy friends packed in the backseat? (I am a pastor’s kid, so you can imagine my crew!)

I had the documentation verifying that I’d passed the test and was therefore “safe.” But was I ready for complete freedom on the open road?

If you’re the caregiver of a teenager, I imagine you’re thinking, “Of course not!” (Perhaps you’d add a few choice words.)

If you’re a teen (congratulations for reading a paper!), you may begrudge the truth, but hopefully you still recognize the need for restrictions that keep you and everyone else on the road safe.

The metaphor with vaccines is not that we are inexperienced, but that we want all the freedoms now. But without precautions, that freedom puts those who are ineligible for the vaccine at risk. It is like the Apostle Paul’s warning to the ancient church: “Take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to others” (1 Corinthians 8:9).

Perhaps you have seen the handy, color-coded chart just updated by the CDC. As a fully vaccinated person, I have been given the green light to remove my mask for almost every activity, whether outdoors or indoors.

But for unvaccinated people, many of the same activities are marked in red, meaning the same activities are “least safe” for them. This should wave a yellow caution flag for vaccinated people who enter large, public gatherings.

Remember that restrictions (like masks and social distance) for public gatherings are only temporary, like a learner’s permit. In the meantime, we can still return to the activities with close family and friends that bring joy!

But I imagine certain readers might still be groaning: “You’ve got to be kidding me! I am so over this darn mask!” I hear you. To be sure, I complained about the driving restrictions when I was 15 years old.

Deep down I was grateful, though, for I knew the restrictions were in place to keep everyone on the road safe.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His forthcoming book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”

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