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Vaccination and Pandemic Life

Have you received the COVID vaccination?  If not, why?  If so, what happens next?

Governor Wolf said that two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s 1A priority status category has been vaccinated.  President Biden says that a vaccination should be available to all adults this month. Wolf encouraged any older person who has not been able to get the vaccine to call the County Office of Aging for help to schedule or get to a vaccination appointment.

Two weeks after the second vaccination, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines expand options to resume some social events, especially outdoors.  However, if not because of selfish concern but out of respect for others, the CDC encourages wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.

If You Have NOT Been Vaccinated

Given the encouraging data from vaccinated people, and the threat from COVID variants, it is a good time to get off the fence and get vaccinated.  Take your Medicare card to the appointment, and not just your supplemental insurance card.  If you have Medicare it pays for the vaccination.

Governor Wolf said that teachers, childcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters, grocery store employees and food and agriculture workers are now vaccine-eligible.  By Monday April 12, that list will include all “essential workers.” By Monday April 19, anyone 16 years or older may be vaccinated, although only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for 16 and 17-year-olds.

A COVID vaccination has not been legally mandated in Pennsylvania or any other state.  None of the major world religions have advised against the COVID vaccine.

Adopted in relation to the mandatory vaccination of children, Pennsylvania law (28 Pa. Code § 23.83) provides these exceptions to mandatory immunization requirements:  religious grounds; or a strong moral or ethical conviction similar to a religious belief; or, if a physician provides a written statement that immunization may be detrimental to a person’s health. 

In 1905, the United States Supreme Court decided that a state criminal law which required all adult residents of a community to get a smallpox vaccine was not a violation of Constitutional liberties (Jacobson v. Massachusetts).  The Constitutional standard that liberties are not absolute, so government may require mandatory vaccination to promote public health and safety, was applied successfully for adults in 2019 by New York City in response to an outbreak of measles in Brooklyn. 

The CDC website explains why:  the vaccination is safe; it cannot infect a person with COVID; it is not risky for someone who hopes to have children; and it is recommended even if a person has tested positive for COVID. Ask the vaccinator for advice about taking an over-the-counter pain medicine to offset mild discomfort that sometimes follows the vaccine.

We probably all know someone who is resisting the vaccine.  Except for rare circumstances when a physician could advise against the COVID vaccine, there is no credible science to support a belief that the vaccination is unsafe.

The rumor that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded a microchip or invisible dye to be implanted along with the vaccine has been debunked.  Similarly, some people have long suspected that the government puts something in the water supply to control us. Without a need for ridicule, I recognize any person’s right to drink well water and bottled water.

If You Have Been Vaccinated

Take a photo of both sides of your vaccination card and put your card in a safe place with other important documents, such as a passport or car title.  A card for a completed Moderna or Pfizer vaccine has two stickers on it, one for each dosage.  Stickers from a clinic are enough without a signature.

Several office supply stores will laminate the card for free, but lamination could become an issue if the card is used to prove receipt of a future booster shot.  IBM developed the Excelsior Pass as a free, voluntary, smart-phone app which the state of New York uses to provide secure proof of vaccination.  Proof is expected to be required to attend some public events at large venues.

The vaccination is effective two weeks after the first dose.  Effectiveness increases by a small statistical percentage after the second dose.  The CDC says that the vaccine should not be considered to be effective until two weeks after the second vaccination, and then the CDC continues to recommend precautions. 

As an employer and elder care guide, I am conservative.  When I dine out with my wife next week, it will be two weeks after our second dose, and our first time in thirteen months to sit in a restaurant.  Even if the service is slow and the food is not up to normal standards, it will be an enjoyable celebration.  

Perhaps you are looking forward to attending an event that was cancelled last year.  Many events will require masks whenever near others.  Out of courtesy to others, if not one’s own safety, even outdoors it will be considerate to wear a mask or stay socially distanced.  

It is confusing to know what is safe.  The CDC offers a mixed message, warning of “impending doom” from a “fourth COVID wave” while also saying that fully vaccinated people are safe to travel.  Safe return to the normalcy of pre-COVID pleasures requires our patience and behavioral compromises.

Professional Protocols

When our staff is fully vaccinated, we will no longer require wearing a mask in our office when only staff is present.  For the foreseeable future, we will wear masks when meeting with others.  Willingness to wear a mask and be vaccinated will be conditions of future employees. 

A recent, virtual networking meeting revealed that some care-providing organizations have good reasons for more flexible standards.   Despite our differences, there is strong agreement that we should gratefully accept slow but steady progress, minimize risky behavior that could cause setbacks, and be clear to the public about our protocols.   Expectations of informed consumers will guide development of post-vaccination protocols for safe customer engagement by care providers without additional government regulations.

Dave Nesbit, Attorney