The Vaxxed and the Unvaxxed, Take 2
30 July 2021
People in Missouri are wearing disguises to get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the New York Times.
Charlie got his second Pfizer vaccine in February (his first dose was in January). While he has not been in his state-of-birth in years, we still follow the news in St. Louis and recall the time I went to Jefferson City with the girls' cross-country team as an assistant coach at a private school. Me being from Berkeley and Jim being a guy from Jersey, we were fish out of water in the Mound City and did our best to get to know a place we thought we might call home for the long-term. Jim had an endowed chair in the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. I had just gotten my Ph.D. from Yale and, after a Latin teacher stint in Ladue and some adjuncting at Webster University and SLU, got a tenure-track position as the sole Classics professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. The three of us moved there when Charlie was one year and some months old in 1998. Jim commuted up and down the Mississippi for several months before taking a sabbatical and before Charlie was diagnosed with autism at the Minneapolis Children's Hospital on July 22, 2021. I took a year of leave after my second year at St. Thomas, we moved back to St. Louis, and Jim's mother called us to (again courtesy of the New York Times) tell us that people are moving from Greece and China to have their kids attend autism schools in New Jersey!
Well, so are we, was Jim's response. And so we did.
We thought we'd always be in New Jersey. Jim became a tenured full professor in the Theology department at Fordham University. I became the sole Classics professor at another small Catholic university, Saint Peter's University (still a college when I started). Charlie's educational odyssey in public and out of district, and just out of, schools became the subject of this blog in 2005 and then in 2013, feeling something closing in on us, we moved to California. And here we are -- Charlie graduated from school and being wage-rated in his vocational program that so very much wishes to reopen fully when, if, the coronavirus pandemic truly gets more under control. Jim retired in 2018 and I teach ancient Greek, Latin and medical terminology online for public universities.
It has been a Take 2 for Charlie, for our family, out here in Berkeley and Oakland in California.
Unfortunately it also has been a Take 2 for anti-vaccine proponents, whose insistence on needing to make their own choice about getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and too often refusing to be vaccinated, mean that we are far from seeing the end of the pandemic and of a return to the way things were.
It was while we were in New Jersey that I had my heyday of advocating against those who claimed that, contrary to scientific knowledge, vaccines or something in vaccines such as the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, caused autism. I learned then that, no matter what I wrote or said, what peer-reviewed research study I cited, those who think that vaccines cause autism or otherwise cause harm or are to be avoided -- that individuals with such beliefs cannot be persuaded and that they will always pull out some seemingly "commonsensical" argument to back up their statements. Jim and I have had conversations with many persons with such beliefs and always stated simply and decisively that Charlie's being autistic has nothing to do with a vaccine, the vaccines do not cause autism, that something in vaccines does not cause autism.
We do know that Charlie, learning that his program must scale back its reopening plans in the face of another resurgence of the coronavirus, was woebegone today. There has been a brief period when he was able to see his friends from his program (everyone in masks). We will hope that he can do so again soon.
Meanwhile, it is Take 2 for me and the unvaxxed.