Guest Opinion: Vaccines, a round in the chamber

It’s 10:25 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, and I’ve just returned from Rite-Aid in Sequim after getting my first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

On my way there, I was musing about how in happier times the corner of Washington Street and Fifth Avenue was once the location of Tom-Tom’s, kind of a general store back in the day. It’s where as a kid growing up in Sequim in the 1970s, we’d get fishing bait and camping supplies. Now it’s just the location of another icon to Big Box America.

But back to my tale: Don’t think that I’m especially overjoyed about my choice to finally get a COVID-19 vaccine. In fact, I intended to never get a COVID-19 vaccine. I’m not an anti-vaxxer (just got my tetanus booster last month). It’s simply the concern that five, 10 or 20 years down the road, some unforeseen complication won’t arise from the rushed and harried research and distribution of these vaccines, an unintended consequence that will harm us all.

Or, the notion that right now, in some lab in China, research is ongoing that will actually leverage these vaccines against us in an especially diabolical form of biological warfare. China is not the world’s friend. Time for us all to finally embrace that reality.

Frankly, I was never troubled much with the notion that I’d ever get seriously ill from early variants of COVID-19. I’m blessed with a very robust immune system. I fought off what were probably a couple mild COVID cases in March 2020 and perhaps once this year. Just a handful of my co-workers at BNSF Railway in the signal department between Vancouver, B.C. and Vancouver, Wa., came down with full-blown COVID; two were hospitalized but are back at work. Yes, the federal government mandated masks for railroad employees. Yes, we largely ignore the mandate. No, Federal Railroad Administration field inspectors are not enforcing it. They’ve bigger fish to fry.

I thought then — and still do — that government and corporate reaction to COVID was overblown, the devastating lockdowns and social distancing and mask mandates a futile, almost naïve response with more long-term negative repercussions than short-term benefits to something that could never really be controlled or contained. Up to now, the virus has only seriously infected a small segment of the U.S. population and is fatal to a smaller select demographic. Tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of Americans have been either asymptomatic or experienced only mild symptoms.

Resisting “Mask Culture” and what I came to consider the “Cult of the Inoculated,” I’ve grown weary of the moaning and hand-wringing from public health officials and biased media hype about COVID.

So, what changed this hardline COVID vaccine resister into someone who is among the vaccinated? Was it Gov. Jay Inslee’s silly bribes and prize-money scheme? Peer pressure? Joints for Jabs and other nonsense? None of the above.

Last night I learned more of the highly contagious and super-potent Delta variant, which is just now poking its nose under the tent of our county. I found myself asking, “Do I get a vaccine and assume unknown risks, or do I risk that I won’t contract this Delta variant, because Delta to me sounds like what everyone feared COVID-19 really would be?”

Those two questions I asked myself define a classic dilemma. And I chose the lesser of two evils; I chose to get vaccinated. Within an hour I had an appointment scheduled at Rite-Aid.

And while I preferred the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine (I don’t like needles the way some people don’t like closed-in spaces or heights), I took what was available.

I don’t know what the long-term effects of a COVID-19 vaccine may be. One or more of these vaccines may be a ticking time bomb. Or they may be all perfectly safe and efficacious. But I do believe this: the Delta variant of COVID-19 is more contagious, more deadly than anything we’ve seen yet.

For those of you sitting on the fence, or steadfastly holding out from being vaccinated for whatever reason, I encourage you to think about this: You need to give yourself a fighting chance against the Delta variant. Like a firearm for self-defense, you need a round in the chamber, and you need rounds in the magazine. You fire until the threat is eliminated, right? That’s what we responsible gun owners are taught. A round in the chamber: that’s one way to consider the COVID vaccines.

Because it does not appear that this new variant is going to be as easily avoided as its predecessors. It’s almost as if the Delta variant is looking for a fight, and it’s not bringing a knife, either.

So, my question to you who are still vaccine resisters as I was is simply this: What are you bringing to this fight?

Paul Schmidt is a resident of Sequim and a 1980 graduate of Sequim High School. He’s a railroad signal electronic technician based in Seattle.