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The Choice of the Third Vaccine

The third round, the booster, is not yet a definitive remedy for anything. But the world of COVID is a world in which decisions are made as if in the fog of war.
[additional-authors]
August 16, 2021
Paul Biris/Getty Images

On Sunday morning, I took my third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in slightly more than half a year. Forty eight hours earlier or so, the government decided to allow those over 50 years old to receive the booster. That was a Friday. On Friday night, thousands were already vaccinated, on Saturday, operation vaccine moved to city centers. People were going out to the theater, to a restaurant, to a pub, and ended up standing in line to get a vaccine.

Why wait?

Thats what I thought when I booked my shot for early Sunday morning. The third round, the booster, is not yet a definitive remedy for anything. But the world of COVID is a world in which decisions are made as if in the fog of war. Battalions of doctors must advance, and the citizen must decide if he wants to ride with them, of stay behind.

Psychologically, taking the third shot feels like a decision, and not taking it feels like avoiding decision. But thats an illusion. There are in fact two decisions from which to choose: you decide to take the shot—or you decide not to take the shot. Its true that the former decision demands action, while the latter demands nothing. And yet, both are decisions. Both could have positive or negative consequences. Both should be weighted in the exact same way, against each other. What is the worst case scenario if one doesnt get the booster, and what is the world case scenario if one gets it? And whats the best case scenario in both cases? After a short back and forth, I opted to take the vaccine, and also to take it now, rather than wait to see what happens to other people who take it (if thats the choice, the honest observer must also consider what happens in the meantime to those who do not take it).

Hence, we must choose… The unforeseen results of doing nothing—or the unforeseen results of doing the best we can come up with at this time.

My appointment was for ten in the morning. I arrived at 9:50, and by 10:02 the whole thing was over. Israel organized for this third round of vaccines like an army of veterans. In two to three days, tens of thousands of people were vaccinated, no problem, no long lines, no complaints. If you want the shot, you will get it, and quickly. Those who did not yet vaccinate were slower to respond, or slower to decide. Orin some cases, do not want to vaccinate.

Its easy to sympathize with those who are slow to respond. This has been a tiring year, and having to get yet another appointment for yet another shot is not easy for everyone. Those who refuse to immunizethemselves and insist on risking their neighbors are more difficult to understand. Some of them are kooky, some are not particularly bright, some are detached from reality, and some are immature. The era of social media provided each such objector with a megaphone. They use it to spread misinformation, to sow apprehension, to present themselves as martyrs who fight against evil forces (our doctors). They thrive because the very essence of battling a pandemic like COVID is uncertainty. And so, their arguments are not completely unfounded. No, we cannot guarantee that the vaccine is fully effective. No, it was not tested for as long as wed wish. No, theres no other country from which we can learn about the exact outcome of a booster.

A medical worker prepares to administer a third dose of COVID 19 vaccine to a patient on August 1, 2021 in Netanya, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

So why are we still taking the risk, and the shot? Because of the flip side of the same coin.

No, we cannot guarantee that without the vaccine the country can keep functioning. No, we have no time to test the vaccine for as long as wed wish and still stop the pandemic before it kills many thousands. No, we cant rely on slower countries to serve as example if we want to be effective.

Hence, we must choose. The unknown consequence of the pandemic—or the unknown consequence of the booster. The unforeseen results of doing nothing—or the unforeseen results of doing the best we can come up with at this time. The recommendations of experts—or the recommendations of a mix of conspiracy theorists, fameseeking celebrities, alternative healers and the rest of the objectorscrew.

On Sunday, I made my choice. To be honest: it is an easy choice.


Shmuel Rosner is an Israeli columnist, editor, and researcher. He is the editor of the research and data-journalism website themadad.com, and is the political editor of the Jewish Journal.

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