New Year’s Wishes!
(body parts sonnet)
by Bruce Ballard
Your heart has wished folks well on New Year’s Eve.
You’ve sung “Should old acquaintance be forgot…”
(Your brain recalled the right words – did it not?),
And felt deep in your gut all you’ll achieve
In the year ahead. You’ve mouthed the words
And eyed the prize you’re sure you’ll win within
The first few months. Oh, toe the line, begin
A diet, lend a hand…it sounds absurd
Because you’ve voiced this every year. But now
That you have Parkinson’s, you need to arm
Yourself much more, to hold at bay the harm
That Mr. P has slapped across your brow.
So, yes, you’ll face the facts, and double check
To work out, keep your chin up, save your neck.
I wonder what 2020 will mean to us 10 years from now? Will it be just one year of discontinuity and hardship that signals the start of better things? Will we look back at it nostalgically with some small amount of pride of having survived it and been the better for it? Or will 2020 become the moment America and the world looks back and realizes it was the start of when nothing was ever going to be the same?
I am optimistic that the vaccines will improve our ability to return to more normal lives. But I do not think it will convey the type of immunity that polio or measles or even the chicken pox vaccine conveys. More likely it will be more analogous to the current flu vaccines, which improve our ability to fight off that year’s flu strain but do not totally protect us from it. Likely this will become another requirement in our yearly flu shot routine. The new COVID vaccines available today and the improved versions in years to come will be key tools for our public and personal health, but likely won’t be perfect. There will inevitably be reports of people who received one of the vaccines, only to die from COVID. In my mind, that does not mean the vaccines did not confer benefits to individuals and to society. Nothing in health care is 100% effective.
In the next 10 years, we will learn what the long term health consequences of having multiple infections of COVID. We will learn whether there are positive or negative impacts of having COVID when you are younger that convey benefits or harm when you are older and a myriad other questions that only time can answer. We will learn what the impact is on our health care system of the “long haulers”, individuals that have recovered from initial infections but continue to have debilitating symptoms long afterwards. We will learn the consequences for those that do not take the vaccine and the impacts on their families. We will learn as a society whether we can implement public health policies and practices that have benefited us for generations with the latest technology or will misinformation campaigns that sow seeds of fear prevail? Will the fear of science and the onslaught of misinformation in the media steer misguided thinking towards an increase of unvaccinated? I fear what is already a difficult proposition of getting our society inoculated at rates that benefit everyone, will be made all the more difficult by the media giving too much voice to anti-vaxers individual right to choose and thereby erode a greater public good. I worry that bogus conspiracy theories that influence individual’s leaning towards not getting the vaccine could impact inoculation rates at levels that might erode the effectiveness of our public health.
I think those of us that are confident in the science have an obligation to speak up for this incredible opportunity we have been given in 2021. Vaccinations work because we mutually agree to enter into a compact as a society to take them together. We have already seen that countries with a greater mutual cooperation around practical public health measures, like wearing a mask, achieve far superior outcomes than the United States in terms of infection rates and death. Will we see the same with vaccination success in the coming years? Will there be a divide between countries that achieve a high rapid percentage of the population vaccinated and those that don’t in terms of life expectancy and COVID infection? Will we see the United States, which used to be among the top in public health outcomes and life expectancy, continue to slip further and further behind the world’s best countries that spend far less and achieve far more?
It all feels pretty bleak when there is such a large percentage of our community/country that still is rallying behind a much more disturbing myth of a second Trump presidency that is based on a completely imaginary alternative reality. If we can’t agree as a society on something that is pretty black and white at this point, that Biden won a fair and accurate election, then how do we deal with more complicated issues around vaccines in which there is some shared risk and some unknowns, not so much in their safety, but in their long term efficacy? The misguided fears of vaccines seems trivial in comparison to the current political divide, which begs the question is America capable of mutual cooperation to achieve a greater good anymore?
But, it’s New Years! As someone with high blood pressure and type II diabetes I fit into the high risk category of the cross hairs of COVID. I am looking forward to the day that I get my chance to be vaccinated and the second day sometime in 2021 or early 2022 when I will receive my booster and my body will be in a better position to fight it off. And that hope is a bright spot waiting out there somewhere for me in the coming year.
Happy New Years! Be well!
A Song For New Year’s Eve
by William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878)
Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay –
. . Stay till the good old year ,
So long companion of our way,
. . Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
. . . Oh stay, oh stay ,
One little hour , and then away .
The year , whose hopes were high and strong ,
. . Has now no hopes to wake ;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
. . For his familiar sake.
. . Oh stay , oh stay ,
One mirthful hour , and then away .
The kindly year, his liberal hands
. . Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
. . Because he gives no more?
. . Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.
Days brightly came and calmly went,
. . While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
. . How sweet the seventh day’s rest!
. . Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.
Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
. . Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
. . Of all they said and did!
. . Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.
Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
. . And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
. . Oh be the new as kind!
. . Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away