Dear America – We Are No Longer Great

The title “Greatest Generation” has been taken. History will not be easy on our current generation when a moniker is decided upon to describe our actions during this pandemic. I’m afraid that the description will be far from Great. In the early days of the pandemic, many of our leaders focused on the economy and the stock market, rather than the devastation that was being wrought on essential workers and those in healthcare. These were the people that couldn’t stay home and have their groceries delivered while they worked remotely. In the waning days of the pandemic, we see those who are vaccine resistant and want others to get the vaccine first while they enjoy the benefits of vaccines; elimination of mask mandates, opening of restaurants and bars, freedom to travel. I see this everyday in my office now that we are starting to see the end of the pandemic. Each patient I encounter I inquire about Covid vaccination status. If not vaccinated, I try to dispel any myths as well as encourage by using empathy to protect those around them. Time and again I hear the phrase, “I don’t want to expose myself to any risk if not getting the vaccine doesn’t affect my ability to live my life”.

The Greatest Generation saw life much differently. They were willing to make huge sacrifices – sending their sons and daughters off to wars, rationing food, growing Victory Gardens and initiating scrap drives. A vaccine that protects not only you but those around you seems minor in comparison to these sacrifices.

I recently finished Andy Slavitt’s book, “Preventable”, that provides an overview of the pandemic both from a scientific and political perspective. He highlights the concept of exponential math involving the spread of Covid. Early on, it was estimated that each person infected with Covid would spread their infection to 2.3 people. Two to three weeks later that original infection had spread to 4000+ people and approximately 10-20 people would die or be hospitalized. And this was before the Delta variant which is twice as infectious. The vaccine not only protects you from being hospitalized or death, but more importantly protects 4000 others around you that you may not even know.

The African proverb of “It takes a Village” to raise a child is something we as Americans need to embody in the future when it comes to how we treat not only our family but those around us that we may not know. It is not only vaccines, but how we should view climate change and the effect our actions have on those in far away countries that suffer the effects of rising sea waters. It is why we should make the minimum wage a livable wage so that parents can support their children.

This post was prompted by a recent visit from special friends. Twenty-nine years ago, I made a decision to help a friend create a family. Twenty years ago, we decided to add to our family by adoption. Four of the young adults that resulted from these decisions were together in the same place for a glorious few days. Despite a gap in ages and living in different parts of this country, they have become fast friends that reconnect within minutes of being together. A long ago decision to help a friend by egg donation coupled with a later decision to expand our family thru adoption is my living example of exponential math. With the vaccine, we may never know how many people we have benefitted from getting sick or dying of Covid, but the low level of infection in those states with high vaccination rates is evidence of the village mentality working. Now is the time to help our village of America so that we all can return to a pre-pandemic life.