Brenda Looper

Two years ago Sunday, I lost my first best friend. My brother Corey was the closest to my age, and I spent probably the first two years of my life being his shadow until he went to school.

My mom's and my favorite picture of the two of us is on a shelf in my office, and is the profile picture on my Facebook account. I'm probably less than a year old in the picture, which would make Corey about 4½. The first thing you notice is the contrast of my little shoes with his much larger ones.

His feet would be bigger than mine for the rest of his life. The hole in my heart now is even bigger.

I still feel guilt from the last conversation I had with him, being that it was about vaccinations and staying safe with covid still in full gallop. I had implored him for months to get the vaccination, or at the very least, to be more careful and wear a mask, but to no avail.

Corey was stubborn and believed he was immune since he'd been around so many unmasked people, some of whom were carrying covid. He also would throw around data he'd found--or worse, something from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), on which anyone can submit a report that, according to the site, "may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable"--without understanding it.

Then he got covid, and tried to self-treat as if it were a cold; he only started getting actual treatment when his life partner called an ambulance for him because he wasn't getting better and it scared her. He improved a little in the hospital, enough where the doctors decided to send him to rehab so his lungs could get stronger. Unfortunately, in the elevator on the way there, he had a stroke when a blood clot broke free as a side effect of the infection. He died about a week later.

I managed to go almost three years without catching covid, until my birthday week this year. I always knew it was a possibility, and I'd been less careful about masking than I should have been in the time when I probably caught it. No vaccination is 100 percent effective, and never will be, but because I'd been vaccinated and boosted, my infection was less severe than it could have been, and I never needed to go to the hospital.

Taking precautions so that others don't become sick is part of being human and the social contract. I can deal with minor inconvenience for the safety of others. Taking a vaccine or wearing a mask in a hospital, doctor's office, pharmacy or other places where you may run into people with low immunity is nothing compared to someone being on a ventilator.

Yet for some people, it's too much to ask.

Spreading misinformation is at least as dangerous as not exercising caution. "Vaccine" redefined? No, the definition was broadened to take into account how mRNA vaccines--something new--work, but it still means something that provokes an immune response to teach your body how to react to infection. Language and science evolve.

Ivermectin a miracle cure? For parasitic infections, maybe, but covid is viral, not parasitic. Hydroxychloroquine another miracle cure? Not really; though it was authorized for emergency use, testing showed it to not be very effective. Plus there's the fact that people were using veterinary-grade ivermectin (not for human use) and fish-tank cleaner.

Vaccines untested? Seriously? Because of the emergency status, human tests were run concurrently rather than consecutively to shorten the time to possible approval. All approved vaccines, no matter the disease, are continually monitored for adverse reactions, which is why the J&J vaccine was pulled in the U.S.

Taking something said early on when very little was known and pointing to that as proof of something shady is more than a little shady itself. Covid was a novel virus, so we were learning about it just after medical researchers did. Masking does help limit spread, but you can't convince some otherwise because Dr. Anthony Fauci said early on that masks weren't needed for general use. A personal protective equipment shortage at the time meant that front-line medical personnel needed to be prioritized for masks; once manufacturing caught up, the guidance changed.

There are those who will never agree with me on the need for precautions, but let me hit you with the 2-by-4 of reality: Unless you are completely cut off from every other living person, your actions will affect someone else. Remaining unvaccinated gives the virus even more of a chance to mutate and spread. Flitting around crowds unmasked when you're sick or have been exposed to someone with an active infection endangers others. Actively coughing on someone ... what are you--12?

If you won't take precautions for yourself, at least take them for those you love. Losing someone to something that could be ameliorated is a pain you don't want.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.