A mother and daughter laugh and enjoy each other in a tent made of sheets and twinkle lights

I want to support choice, but I love too much.

There was an underlying narrative in the first wave of the pandemic that the people hit hardest were those who had lived their lives as they wanted and made their own choices. Many victims were elderly. The narrative was that no one wanted to see them in pain or worse, but at least they’d led a long life and many were close to an end. Those who weren’t elderly often had co-morbidities. In some cases, the narrative went, these were brought on by choices to eat rich foods, not exercise, smoke, or otherwise enjoy the good life.

This wasn’t truly accurate, but it was a convenient sentiment that balanced support of personal choices, including the choice to remain unvaccinated. After all, weren’t they making what they believed to be a healthier choice for the long-term, based on their low-risk profile, or concern of complications from a less-than-ideally-tested vaccine? Shouldn’t everyone have the right to make that choice?

Now that Delta has arrived, that narrative is gone. In some states, over 99% of people over 64 years old are vaccinated, and those individuals aren’t dying. Children are getting sicker and dying. Some hospitals are stretched from helping adults who could have vaccinated but chose not to do it. Some hospitals are unable to continue giving non-COVID-related care to those who need it. Required – not elective – surgeries are being cancelled. There’s just not enough beds, rooms, or medical staff to accommodate everyone.

There are many people who don’t have a choice as to whether or not to vaccinate, including those with uncontrolled or unstable infections, and children. Children haven’t had a “long, rich” life. They did not make choices that increase their proclivity to contract or suffer from this illness.

To those who still choose not to vaccinate, I suggest thinking back to your child’s, godchild’s, niece’s, or nephew’s first grade school picture. See those big doe eyes and the little teeth in that smile. Someone who looks like that, and talks like that – who thinks like that and feels like that – is dying. They may be doing it amid a sea of strangers in a hospital hallway, without the comfort of even holding their mother’s hand, because hospital beds are filled with people who made a personal health choice.

This isn’t a personal health choice anymore. It’s a community health crisis. And it’s time to start caring beyond our own health profile. I wouldn’t support a friend who habitually drove drunk because they felt it was their right to take a chance that they’d get home safely or because they didn’t trust the Uber drivers. I wouldn’t do it because their actions put so many other innocent lives at risk. I would love them, but I wouldn’t support that choice. So now, at the risk of evoking the crackly voice of Sally Struthers talking about the price of a cup of coffee, I’ve got to say I feel it’s time to save the children. Get vaccinated.