John Colson: It works for cows as well as humans

John Colson
Hit & Run

All over the United States, indeed all over the world, we’re all talking about one issue more than just about anything else, and it comes in the form of a question — have you gotten your vaccine yet?

OK, there may be other issues that might be slightly more consuming in any given locale, at any given time, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is never far behind any other topic in our global conversation.

And possibly the single most arresting variation in all those conversations is another question — if you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet, why not? And assuming you will soon be asked to make a final decision about whether to extend your arm to a nurse or some other needle-wielding individual, will you get it or will you refuse?

Given all that, I should state right now, unequivocally and positively, that I have just passed my two-week wait from my second vaccination shot.

That means I am now cleared by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (still widely known as the CDC for brevity’s sake) to get together in-person, inside or outside, with my rather tight circle of family and friends, albeit while wearing a mask for the time being.

And I must add, getting those two shots was pretty easy, not painful at all (other than a minor soreness at the injection site, which went away pretty quickly), and has resulted in no long-term ill effects. None. At all.

I got my shots because I am over 65 years old.

I certainly am not considered to be an “essential worker” by anyone (except perhaps for my editor and one or two faithful readers), so that had nothing to do with it.

I found it easy to get on a hospital website to sign up for the shots, which may not be true for everyone.

I understand that there are some who have encountered barriers to getting their shots, and I am sorry that is so.

But within a couple of months, the experts predict, all of us in the U.S. will be eligible for one or another vaccine, and we will be well on the way toward the vaunted goal of “herd immunity,” as long as the numbers of doubters, nervous nellies and decliners is small enough that we don’t find ourselves, collectively, in yet another surge of infections.

One relatively unaddressed oddity about this whole episode in human frailty is the use of the term, “herd immunity.”

When I first herd it (oops, I meant “heard it”) I was living and working in western Garfield County, and the talk was about inoculating cattle to cut down on bovine death and illness from various infectious diseases. This was in the early 1980s, when I spent a couple of spring and autumn seasons working for a rancher friend to shift cattle to or from summer grazing on high-altitude mesas.

Not being a lifelong cowboy, I had to look it up to make sure I understood it all, which I did in a couple of agricultural textbooks (this was back before the internet, remember). And among other things I learned that “vaccinations are not a silver bullet cure for disease in a cowherd,” as stated currently in an online text from the New Mexico State University extension service.

But vaccines are viewed as a critical arrow in the quiver of those hoping to stop highly infectious diseases in their tracks, something I accept to be as true for humans as it is for cows.

Which brings me to a main reason I decided to write this column; I keep hearing from people (not friends, typically — rather, let’s call them conversational acquaintances) who come up with various reasons for refusing to even think about getting any form of COVID vaccine.

Some have opined that the whole vaccine effort is just another effort to control the population, another kind of “tyranny” aimed at keeping people docile and calm.

To that I can only respond, “Are you kidding? Do you really think the U.S. government, or governments around the world, are even capable of the kind of massive deception you’re describing?” I don’t even mention how deeply paranoid, fearful and easily misled one would have to be to believe such things.

Others have argued that they have “heard” that some people have gotten sick from the vaccines, and they want to stay as far away from all that as possible.

Well, I can tell you for a fact that it did not make me sick. And I say this despite a decades-long unwillingness to get the annual influenza vaccine, which is known to be haphazardly effective at best and which, one year, actually did make me ill for weeks. But as I said, the COVID vaccine did not make me ill, has not made anyone I know seriously ill, and is necessary to contain the pandemic.

With that, I urge all who read this to go ahead, do the world and yourself a favor, get the vaccine (whichever flavor you prefer, mine was from Pfizer) and get on with life.

Email at