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Fucking vaccines, how do they work?

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A parent wrote Dear Prudence Care and Feeding about her very justifiably pissed-off and fully vaccinated daughter [via]:

Help! My 15-year-old wants to go to camp this summer. It’s local, on a college campus, and she would be staying in a dorm. She keeps reminding me that “it’s only for two weeks,” and she’s been so bored, and the school year was so terrible—and it’s an arts camp, which is her thing. She desperately wants to go.

I know how disappointed she’ll be if I stick to my guns, but my every instinct is screaming at me that this is a bad idea. We live in an area where many people aren’t getting vaccinated—mostly by idiotic choice—and neither the camp nor the college is requiring proof of vaccination. Nor is there a mask mandate! My own kid is of course vaccinated (why would we not partake of this freaking medical miracle?) as is the rest of my family, but we are surrounded by people who aren’t. I have let her socialize with the few kids she knows whose parents have had them vaccinated, so I’m not keeping her locked up! It’s just that we are surrounded on all sides by anti-vax, science-denying conspiracy theorists. And while she would be much less at risk than the kids at camp who are not protected by the vaccine—she’s 95 percent protected, they are 0 percent protected—there is still a risk to her that doesn’t seem worth taking. Plus I don’t want to pretend I’m OK with the camp happening at all under these circumstances, and I think there’s a good chance somebody’s kid is going to get sick if 100 teenagers are socializing and living in close quarters. If I send mine, it feels like I’m giving tacit approval to whatever happens during those two weeks. Am I being ridiculous? My daughter insists I am. And because she is a dramatic teenager, she says she’ll never forgive me if I don’t let her go.

The strange “tacit approval” stuff is what it is, I guess, but the obvious problem here is that the “95% protected” is actually “virtually 100% protected against severe illness.”

Still, it’s not that surprising to see parents being unreasonably risk averse, and the whole point of an advice column is to put things in perspective with important facts, right? Hoo boy:

You are not being ridiculous. Teenagers are at greater risk than was previously thought, as this story in the New York Times and this one in the Washington Post make clear. If the camp is not requiring that all attendees be vaccinated—and, good lord, not requiring masks either—then you should not let her go.

The two cited stories are good. Although teenagers are at a much lower risk of mortality or severe illness from COVID, they should still get vaccinated. The problem is that the young woman in question has been vaccinated. Her chances of getting a serious case of COVID are for all intents and purposes nothing. Herman doesn’t provide the parent with what it the most pertinent fact, and it’s far from clear that she even understands it herself. This is atrocious advice, backed up with a non-sequitur.

It’s ultimately up to people to make their own risk judgments, but I will say that any risk aversion so serious that any risk of a non-severe viral infection isn’t “worth taking” would mean no summer camp for kids under any circumstances. Plus no movies, no car rides anywhere, etc. To treat this risk assessment as obviously correct is deeply strange. And really irresponsible for a journalistically-branded advice column meant to be authoritative.

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