I received my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine two full weeks before my first dental appointment since the start of the pandemic. When I arrived for my clean-up, I was armed with my Pfizer vaccination card and mask, fully anticipating that my doctor would need to know my immunization status in order to protect himself, his staff and other patients.
The type of person who takes offense when their doctors ask important questions about their immunization status is the same kind that these honor systems rely on to be available.
At reception, they took my temperature and asked me to complete a survey on symptoms of Covid-19. But almost 15 minutes later, when I found myself in the chair talking with the hygienist, I realized that I still had not been asked if I had received the vaccine.
“As an office, we decided to stop asking our patients about their vaccinations because some of them took offense,” my hygienist explained quietly after I offered my vaccination status. I could tell she was choosing her words carefully. “If our patients offer the information, we update their records. But we are not asking for more. “
I didn’t inquire about the events that led to the entire office’s decision to pamper the anti-vaccines, but I suspect it got ugly. Not wanting to add to my doctor’s stress, I kept my opinions to myself and assumed that the policies were created in the interest of staff safety, especially because we are located in the political home. from Michigan. People have been attacked and even murdered because of the regulation of the wearing of masks in Wolverine State.
The thought of my dentist and his team being criticized for asking patients about their immunization status made me angry, but it also made me laugh. Are these same people offended when the dentist reminds them of the importance of brushing and flossing? What about those more difficult conversations about cavities and oral cancer? (The difference, of course, is twofold: Oral care has yet to be politicized as a deep state conspiracy, and someone’s gingivitis won’t give anyone else a deadly virus.)
My dentist’s policy seems to be another offshoot of the increasingly popular “honor system” – the ridiculous practice of relying on clients and patients to be honest about their immunization status. I’ve seen these systems pop up in all kinds of businesses and establishments across the city, which is particularly problematic given that until recently Michigan has remained a hot spot “as variants have increased and vigilance was decreasing, ”according to public health professionals.
Certainly, I believe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical experts when they say that those who are vaccinated are at minimal risk of dying from this virus. But I also believe in our country’s largest union of registered nurses when it argues that “vaccines are only one important part of a strong public health infection control program.”
According to the CDC, in fact, the risk of infection in fully vaccinated people “cannot be completely eliminated as long as community transmission of the virus continues.” In addition, vaccinated people could still contract Covid-19 and potentially pass it on to others.
This will be the case until at least 60-70% of the population has antibodies and the virus has a much smaller opportunity to spread, what experts call “herd immunity.” Until then, unvaccinated people cannot only continue to get infected easily, they can create variants that overcome the vaccine. We therefore remain responsible for containing the pandemic by avoiding variants, protecting people with compromised immunity, and ensuring that only those who have been vaccinated can remove their masks and participate in indoor group activities as needed.
Yet despite mixed interpretations of how to move forward at this point in the pandemic and the public knowledge that collective immunity is likely a pipe dream, honor systems are proliferating. While it would be nice to believe that we live in a society in which caring for one’s neighbor is enough to keep people honest and careful lest they spread a deadly virus, last year taught us that we cannot rely on the decency of those around us.
The type of person who is offended when their doctor asks important questions about their immunization status is the same who these honor systems rely on to be available. In our post-pandemic world, this willingness to trust blindly just doesn’t matter.
However, it seems my cynicism and frustration with these honor systems leaves me in good company, as my neighbors also seem reluctant to leave their health in the hands of strangers. I have yet to buy from a single boss or maskless worker in my town as people continue to keep their distance from each other in the name of public health.
At least locally, honor system notices posted on storefronts large and small seem to work as simple window decoration in small stores, like my pet supply store and sneaker store, and larger chains like Kohl’s, Home Depot, Costco, and Walmart. In this time of blind trust and unmerited honor, it seems likely that most of us, having spent an entire year wrestling with the ugliest and most selfish segments of society, are unable to lower our minds. guard (and their masks).
Under the circumstances, I am obliged to recall the words from legendary author and activist Maya Angelou, who died exactly seven years ago: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. So while many of my masked neighbors confirm my belief that most of us care about each other and are honorable enough to talk about our immunization status, a fairly large portion of the population turned out not to be. deserve that trust. Indeed, they have shown the world who we are.
For this, we must all be held accountable either until the pandemic is well and truly over, or until more people show themselves willing to err on the side of honesty and humanity so that our professionals health and our business owners are not silenced. .