ActivismAnti-ScienceFeminismScience

Do Not Give Away Our Shot!!

I woke up at about 2 am to use the bathroom, as women my age are prone to do. After a profoundly unsatisfying pee, I checked Twitter. I’ve got a friend on a crazy COVID-19 sleep schedule and he’s usually up at about that time. He’s got a perfume blog that you should check out. Remember blog rolls? I miss those.

Normally, I would settle in for the second half of my evening, but a tweet caught my eye.

It made me so damned mad, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Mad enough to not go back to sleep. I got up, checked my single-cell RNASeq pipeline on my work computer, searched for a gene in the loupe output file, chatted with a friend, and opened my phone to play fishdom. Then I realized why I was so angry about this stupid tweet.

I checked my phone’s usage stats. I have played 2 hours of Fishdom in the past 24 hours. I have a keen scientific mind. I have made some pretty cool discoveries. Now, my brain is absolutely withering in real time. I am so tired of being stuck in my damned house and this fucker is talking about his “caveats” to his 800K followers.

The other day, I wrote about my plans to engage in some debaucherous behavior to celebrate the end of the semester. My tradition of end-of-the-semester debauchery began when I defended my PhD thesis. As soon as it was over, I went to Wegmans and bought a carrot cake and a bottle of wine. I stayed in the basement for 5 days and watched all of Star Trek:TNG. I didn’t shower. It was a glorious time. Now, I routinely engage in a small period of debaucherous behavior at the end of every semester.

I work really, really hard and I love my post-semester debauchery. I live for it.

I poured myself a giant mimosa that was mostly champagne, got some kettle corn, settled under the electric blanket, and prepared to engage in some quality Netflix viewing. I watched an entire season of Shameless. I scrolled through Instagram. I hated every single second of it.

Why? Because what I used to think of as debaucherous behavior is now what we call “Tuesday” in Casa de Strange (minus the mimosa and Netflix during the work day. This blog is not affiliated with my employer). I don’t even have to wear pants anymore. I’m not wearing them now. There are only a couple of things to do these days. 1) Work like a maniac while also homeschooling your children, managing the enormous piles of dishes and laundry, ensuring that your work feels highly unfulfilling or 2) Have a cocktail, watch Netflix, and scroll Instagram/Twitter/Whatever and get all pissed at the realization that many people suck really hard. Or, 2B) Get bored and work more to try to keep your brain from dying, thereby perpetuating the burnout from how hard you’re already working.

I once had the realization that I get paid to sit around and think about problems. Think really hard about them, but mostly think. And then, tell others what I’m thinking about and my interpretations of things. My moneymaker is dying on the vine.

I AM SO TIRED OF MY HOUSE!!!

So, I have some caveats for you. If you are in a position to influence the public, you have an ethical duty to not undo all the good work scientists put into this. Do not be the reason we can’t have nice things. You have an ethical duty to not become the meme that someone’s crazy uncle posts on Facebook with a note about how he’s not getting vaccinated because it might not work anyway and why get all those chemicals injected in your arm and it’s all China’s fault anyway. We should always follow His Holiness St. Fauci’s lead and be 100% truthful about the data, but we have a duty to choose carefully about what we wax poetically about right now. Vaccine leakiness is not a concern that is new to the COVID-19 vaccine and we still encourage populations to vaccinate because vaccines are effective at minimizing morbidity and mortality.

Open speculation about things we “don’t know” is lazy and dangerous. For example, I don’t know whether the moon is going to fall out of the sky and crash into my house tomorrow. But, I know that I can trust science and that what happened in the past is a pretty good predictor of future risk. I don’t plan to try to convince my HOA to invest in moon nets. In the same way, we have lifetimes of experience with vaccination. They are safe and they are effective at decreasing the societal burden of communicable diseases.

Studies around COVID-19 are going to go on for years and, in the same way the pneumococcal vaccine has been refined, the COVID-19 vaccine may need to be refined as we continue to gather data. I will still gladly stand in line when it is my turn because I have confidence that science continues to move us in a positive direction. It has already made our lives better in so many ways.

Also, because do you know what the alternative is? More of this. More sitting in your house with the same assholes you see every single day. Or don’t, because they died. More tragedy. More unemployment. More working or cocktails and Netflix and doom scrolling. I AM SO TIRED OF BEING IN MY HOUSE!!

Seriously, if you’re an “influencer” or “communicator,” you can sit around over a nice pinot with friends and philosophize about things you know nothing about for your TikTok when this is all over. For now, do your part to get us out of our damned houses. And, when your number gets called, get your ass in line.

Isis the Scientist

Professor, physiologist, mother of the iKids, stepmom to the Strange Tots, Strange’s wife, Iowan, bikes, shoes, debt-free zealot, post-stomach. Old crone of a blogger who just never learns. Not even close to affiliated with my employer.

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5 Comments

  1. Yes, but he is correct about the vaccines not preventing transmission.

    There is however proof that they prevent serious COVID and thus can dramatically reduce hospital admissions and mortality.

    This is why the vaccines should initially be targeted to those over 60 years, where most of the serious disease occurs.

    Instead of which, they are going to just about every other so called “essential”worker, including hospital administrators.

    Also including the likes of SD Governor Kristi Noem, QAnon enthusiast, apparently!

    Ah, America.

  2. I can see where you are coming from. But. We also can’t have people getting vaccinated and then thinking they are not going to accidentally give COIVD to their friends and family.
    It is about setting a realistic expectation. He could have worded it better, for sure.
    Maybe something like, “The vaccine is going to save hundreds of thousands of American lives, but even if you are vaccinated, please continue to use masks, social distancing and current measures to prevent spread until we have more data about the vaccine and COVID spread.”
    But twitter forces short, sensationalistic messages and is likely NOT the best means of disseminating valid and important information.

  3. Taken out of context that single tweet is a problem, but the thread as a whole is talking about how difficult it is as a science communicator to communicate issues like uncertainty without filling readers with uncertainty. Which just goes to show another level of difficulty with science communication in the age of twitter – twitter itself makes it very difficult to actually communicate in a way that doesn’t fundamentally change the meaning based on only being able to share part of a thought at a time.

  4. Young people like to point to the low death rate for people in their 20s, which is also true: 29K Cases in Australia, 900 deaths, ONE of whom was in their 20s.

    Against this I try to convince them of the benefits of a vaccine with the fact that 40% of our cases suffer “long COVID”, with long lasting damage to lungs, heart, brain and other organs.

    Also, statistics show that 100% of American COVID survivors now have a prexisting condition that could potentially be used to deny them future medical insurance.

    That said, I reckon demand will exceed supply for the next few months at least, by which time there will be much better vaccines and much better information available.

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