LOS ANGELES – My younger sister and I have a lot in common.
We are both long-winded and gesture dramatically when we speak. We're patient listeners and inveterate advice-givers. We tilt toward skepticism, and cling stubbornly to our beliefs.
And that has brought us to a rare impasse, on the issue of COVID-19 vaccines.
I have been celebrating since February, when I got my first shot of the Moderna vaccine at a San Fernando Valley park. My sister Anita in Cleveland has spent the months since then worrying about me.
Ever since COVID-19 vaccines became a reality, she's been poring over articles and social media posts about hypothetical harms that most scientists debunk. That left her determined to shun the vaccine — and afraid for me to get my next shot.
"I love my sister the way she is," she emailed me three months ago. "And I shudder to think of you having some long-term reaction to this vaccine that could have been avoided. While you are well, I say stay well!"
She followed up with research on natural immune boosters, such as vitamin D. I added that to my health regimen, but refused to even consider skipping my final dose of the vaccine.
"I appreciate the sentiment and respect your skepticism," I wrote back. "But living here in Los Angeles, I'm more likely to die of COVID than to wind up with some weird vaccine reaction."
At that point, I hadn't done the math to know if that was actually true. But my fear of needing a ventilator to breathe was stronger than whatever apprehension I felt about the vaccines.
For my sister, that ratio was reversed. She worried that the new COVID vaccines might turn out, in the long run, to be as dangerous as the disease.