The Sport of Vaccination

Featured GeekMom Science
Image Credit: N Engineer
Image Credit: N Engineer

Vaccines. For some reason, nostalgia seems to run high for the days when deadly diseases moved more freely than minorities.

Disclaimer: I’m one of those pro-vaccine people, and this post is supportive of vaccines. In fact, I’m going to try to explain what vaccines do. So maybe, if you believe vaccines kill you, you might want to keep reading. Because what this discussion needs is not more science, but more metaphors. And as a writer, I’m more qualified to discuss the latter than the former.

Think of vaccines as a scrimmage, an exhibition match, a training exercise. Your body feeling icky after getting your vaccines is like playing against the backup, injured reserve, team of your opponent. If you’ve watched any sports movie ever (or have watched your kids play rec. league anything), your body is the ragtag team in its first game. Maybe it goes well, maybe not. Perhaps, you lose. After all, you barely know what you’re doing. You’re disheartened, maybe convinced the other team cheated, maybe consider quitting altogether. But you don’t. Because, you know, life (or plot point as represented by the secondary motivation to keep playing the game: the bet you can’t afford to lose, the others counting on you, the fact that your parents just paid good money for all that equipment and you’re going to finish off this season, and you’re going to like it, mister).

But then the next time you play, you’re ready. This time, you know what to do. You know which direction to run if you hit the ball. You can catch and throw, and aren’t picking flowers when it’s time to do so. Sure, it’s a tough match, and you concede some points, but in the end, there’s no doubt that you will be victorious. And you are.

But here’s the thing. Just as we emphasize the importance of proper preparation in sports, so too must we allow our bodies the opportunity to train. White blood cells must learn to recognize and defeat real disease cells, so that later, when exposed to the real foe in full uniform in a high-stress playoff game (a.k.a. you’ve contracted a disease), the team knows what to do and stands a chance of succeeding. Because as good as you may be in baseball, that doesn’t guarantee success on the soccer pitch. Vaccines allow your body to train for the right game. All of them.

But this is where the metaphor breaks apart. Because while you have the choice whether or not you train your body, when it comes to deadly diseases, you don’t decide whether or not you play. And unlike in sports, your decision not to train may well cause someone else to lose. Someone who can’t train.

Shall I continue with the metaphor? Not getting vaccinated is like playing that same game against a team of vampires.

They are bigger, stronger, and faster. If they play by the rules, the odds are in their favor, and it will undoubtedly wear you out to beat them. But even if you do beat them, there’s a good chance someone from that team of vampires will wander off into the stands to attack someone else. Or, if you don’t train at all, you’ll join their ranks and cause unspeakable damage to others. By the time the sun comes up, and the game has run its course, you may leave the park and the vampires behind, but who else have you left in your wake?

So give yourself a fighting chance. Sure, it’s entirely possible that you manage to beat a stronger team without any practice. But why?

Life isn’t a game.


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