“My reservations have nothing to do with distrust or an inflated sense of self; instead, the truth behind my uncertainty is this: there’s no vaccination for a year of trauma.”
We’ve all spent the last year trying to survive a pandemic both mentally and physically. We returned home, avoided people we didn’t live with, “masked up” and tried our best to balance online coursework on top of day-to-day responsibilities, which were caused or exacerbated by COVID-19.
Now, after a year of trying to keep ourselves and loved ones healthy, we can get vaccinated. Many of us have because it provides protection and a means to move toward normalcy.
Getting fully vaccinated felt like a reward for a year’s worth of missing out, postponing, canceling and lost time. Even though it was painful to reach milestones like graduating without walking across the stage, turning 21 years old or seeing my sister downsize her wedding, I now understand that we were trying to survive a pandemic by making the best choices possible given the circumstances.
According to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, fully vaccinated individuals are completely safe to go maskless indoors and outdoors — aside from local requirements. I am officially amongst the “vaxxed.” However, for some reason I don’t feel like the pandemic is over.
To be clear, I believe in science and information from the CDC. I know there are people much smarter than me who have taken the time to analyze massive amounts of data in order to pursue the daunting task of providing the most accurate information about COVID-19 to almost 400 million people. My reservations have nothing to do with distrust or an inflated sense of self; instead, the truth behind my uncertainty is this: there’s no vaccination for a year of trauma.
Not everyone can allow themselves to believe that it’s over after a year on a rollercoaster of confusion and uncertainty, and can return to a “back to normal” attitude. Yes, California is opening up and restrictions are being lifted, but that doesn’t erase the damage left behind by this unprecedented pandemic.
Now we’re faced with fully vaccinated individuals choosing to still wear masks, half of the world struggling to get the vaccinations, individuals refusing to get vaccinated and society attempting to unlearn everything we have “stress learned” and practiced for a year.
Come fall semester, students will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccination before returning to campus. Some students will never want to wear a mask again, while others will continue to do so — either choice is acceptable.
The people who want to continue wearing masks aren’t distrustful towards the CDC or science. It all boils down to the fact that being vaccinated does not mean you are magically healed from the trauma.
I don’t know which group I will join, but I do know that I’m not ready to burn my masks just yet.
Alyssa Phillips is a second year graduate student studying creative writing. Follow her on Twitter @alyjoye.