V is for Vaccine

by Melanie Gruenwald

V is for vaccine.

For vulnerability. For victory.

For a virus that does not want to be recognized.

Every conversation I have lately, seems to have the common theme- are you vaccinated, when are you getting vaccinated, where are you on ‘the list,’ how are you feeling if you have been vaccinated, and is there even enough to go around? You’re likely familiar with the ensuing conversations- about envisioning a return to “normalcy,” will we still need to wear masks, can we carry the virus even if we’re vaccinated, does it make the rest of my family any safer, and so on…

I am teaching the KE class on Metaphors this semester. This ongoing awareness of metaphors, the stories manifesting in our lives, has me reflecting, “What is it about our constant engagement with the COVID vaccine that reflects our personal and communal metaphors?”

My sense is that many of us feel that we were caught unaware when the pandemic shifted our expectations, hopes and vision for 2020. We feel vulnerable, exposed, and nervous with the unfamiliar, unpredictable, uncharted nature of living through a pandemic. I know I certainly feel that way. COVID wiped away a sense of security and stability.

Along with COVID, our nation experienced insecurity through other establishments that we believed to be unshakeable. We have lived through a tumultuous political transition, an insurrection on our Capitol, and a season of violence.

The stability and predictability of life vanished in the early weeks of March, 2020.

With the vaccine, we are grasping to regain a sense of control, normalcy, and protection.

The COVID-19 vaccines help our bodies to build immunity, without us actually getting the disease. When we get COVID or a vaccine, our body develops T-lymphocytes, a type of defensive white blood cell, which contains “memory” on how to defend against the virus.

The vaccine does not represent “just” a layer of protection from COVID. The vaccine gives us hope (finding light in the darkness!). The vaccine, as a metaphor, becomes a response all of the things we feel like we lost when COVID emerged. The vaccine represents connection, community, normalcy, and familiarity.

I would like suggest that the metaphor for the vaccine, is one security and stability. It represents the T-cell memory, of ‘never again.’ It helps to defend not only against the virus- but all that the virus represents. It reflects strength and steadiness, not just in light of COVID, but in response to the chaos we feel in our world.

Getting the vaccine might feel like a step towards regaining normalcy. It is not a magic bullet, yet it is movement in the right direction.

I’m guessing that somewhere in our guts, we believe that a system that can provide vaccines, efficiently, and effectively, can also be a system that can stabilize democracy, equity, and security.

May we each work to manifest the change, the strength, the stability, and the security that we hope for. A shot (or two!) in the arm, isn’t going to build the society for which we strive. Rather, it is each of us to take action, and assume personal and communal responsibility.

And may we all be able to receive the vaccine, swiftly and safely, in the days, weeks and months ahead.


Nancy Nowak · February 4, 2021 at 8:26 pm

So well said, Melanie. And now that I’ve received 2 doses of the vaccine, I can say that it represents freedom from fear of dying of Covid 19, alone, intubated, in a hospital.

Lura Williams · February 4, 2021 at 9:14 pm

Thanks, Melanie and Nancy!–At the beginning of the pandemic I was mostly sort of grateful that I was able to experience being in a pandemic! I certainly signed up for the vaccine when I could AND–I start my shots tomorrow and by the end of March I should be fully immune. I am grateful to the God of the Universe that it is available. Sincerely, Lura Williams

Amy Morris · February 4, 2021 at 9:27 pm

Thanks for a great essay on more then the importance of the forthcoming vaccine. I agree that while it will undoubtedly help and I for once cannot wait; it certainly will not solve the huge problems of division and rise of right wing extremism in so many countries today. Sadly we have a ways to go.

Cheri Cohn · February 5, 2021 at 5:43 am

Melanie, your well written essay speaks to my thoughts and feelings of this last year. As Amy said, we still have a ways to go to resolving the issues and problems we continue to face. I am hopeful that we are all taking responsibility for moving in the right direction.

Adrian King · February 5, 2021 at 6:19 am

Thank u for ur words. It is weighing on me to get the vaccine. I am glad it is available but it is not the end all for me. The world changed so much and the virus, as I have grown to respect it, as changed my life and lifestyle. I wonder if I will go back to normalcy? I have adapted a new way to live and actually like it. Yes, I miss some stuff but love the lessons I have learned more. Alot of food for thought. Great piece. Thank u for ur insight.

Denise Daine · February 5, 2021 at 7:43 am

Darkness to light, indeed!

Jami · February 7, 2021 at 7:45 am

Thank you Melanie for your words and insight to this issue/issues at hand we are all facing on a daily. I am on the fence about receiving the vaccine and waiting for a more definitive conclusion/answer on the safety of it for me. I’m concerned about how it will affect me later and perhaps boosters after the initial 2 doses, maybe the one dose from Johnson & Johnson. Also the fact that children can’t receive it yet. I know it is in the works for “16 and under”. Honestly, this pandemic has opened my eyes to so much in just a year in all areas of my life and the growth and lessons learned have been big to say the least. I have adapted to wearing masks etc…I truly am an optimist, but I wonder if there will ever be any freedom and normalcy again, pre COVID-19. I can only hope and pray one day soon. There are new variants popping up everywhere as we all know viruses mutate. As for now, I will continue to follow all safety precautions, hope and pray this will end one day soon.

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