The Week (US)

Vaccine envy: The new national epidemic


“In my house, we have a problem,” said Nicholas Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times. “My wife has been vaccinated; I haven’t.” When she got her second shot, “I couldn’t help feeling that she had crossed safely to the other side of a giant chasm, while I remained at the edge of the cliff.” She can go out safely while I continue to cower at home. Like millions of other Americans, I am suffering from a bad case of vaccine envy. So far, about 15 percent of the U.S. population has gotten at least one shot. Vaccinated seniors have resumed socializin­g with one another and are racing to book vacations. For months, we will be a two-tiered society of “haves and have-nots,” with the vaccinated returning to “a normality that remains forbidden to the rest of us.”

“I haven’t wished I was older since I was a teenager,” said Karina Bland in The Arizona Republic. But now, scrolling through social media and seeing one vaccine selfie after another, “I want to be 65.” I’m even more jealous of younger people who meet their state’s eligibilit­y requiremen­ts, like my friend who qualifies as an educator because he works for a high school drama department. When a pharmacist friend got vaccinated before me, said Gene Weingarten in The

Washington Post, “I hated her, which filled me with self-loathing.” The Germans probably have a word for this complex feeling. “Call it shottenfre­ude.” When I finally did book an appointmen­t after weeks of trying—I’m 69—I felt guilty for being one of the select few, while tens of millions still remained unprotecte­d.

Vaccine envy will lead to months of vaccine awkwardnes­s, said Rachel Gutman in TheAtlanti­c .com. Our social interactio­ns will be defined by who’s protected and who isn’t. Early data indicate that Covid-19 vaccines “stop at least some transmissi­on,” but it’s still possible that vaccinated people can serve as asymptomat­ic carriers and infect others. So if you’ve gotten your shots, determinin­g what’s safe to do depends on “whether your neighbors, family, grocery clerks, delivery drivers, and friends are still vulnerable to the virus.” The immunized can safely eat together, and vaccinated seniors can go ahead and hug their grandkids. But until herd immunity is reached, people who’ve gotten their shots should still wear masks when in indoor public places and avoid crowds. If vaccinated people “throw caution to the wind,” they’ll only be prolonging this pandemic nightmare.

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