Why I got the COVID-19 Vaccine and why you should too

I received my 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Apart from the usual side effects, I feel a great amount of the burden lifted off my shoulders that the Pandemic has brought.

As we see the Pandemic getting stronger despite a year of continuous and differing levels of restrictions, it has been painful to watch the scenes that we are seeing in India today. I am hearing of a growing number of family and friends getting COVID-19 and some even dying as a result. I can’t seem to voice how I feel, but I am definitely feeling a vacuum. This vacuum contains the memories and moments I could have created and spent with some of these people, only if COVID-19 didn’t take them away.

There is still some of the burden left on my shoulders. This burden is about not allowing myself to become complacent after receiving the vaccine. It is very easy to start acting like normal and pretending that we can now be free from COVID-19 infection. But the fact is, we can still get it and we can still spread it. The chances are low and maybe very slim but still the chances are very real indeed.

With the amount of misinformation about the vaccine, I fear that we will not reach global herd immunity. Yesterday, I came to know about Joe Rogan talking about if you are a healthy 21 year old then you shouldn’t get the vaccine. I find that what he has said to be irresponsible and a clear lack of understanding about COVID-19. It affects people differently, healthy or unhealthy. It doesn’t care about your age, your religion, your diet, your location as the virus only cares about it’s own survival. Dr. Fauci gave the best response to what Joe Rogan said and implored us all to think about society as a whole. We are seeing growing numbers of young people getting COVID-19 and some dying as a result. Some COVID-19 deniers, who were young and influential on social media, died after contracting the virus. I encourage everyone who can get the COVID-19 vaccine to get it. Do it for others, for society, or for your community. If you love yourself tremendously, get the vaccine, you want to stay healthy and especially, if you want to eliminate one possible cause of death. This is all about common sense.

We have experts, who study infectious diseases, who have worked hard to create technologies and science to create vaccines. We have public health bodies that want to ensure that clinical trials are conducted and that results are published. All of this is for our safety. Yes, some people may still get COVID-19 after getting the vaccine, some may die or get abnormal reactions from the vaccine but compared to number of people dying once they are infected by COVID-19, there is and will be a massive difference between the two. We only need to look at the statistics.

But my friends, who have received the vaccine, don’t get complacent and don’t think that everything is now back to normal. It isn’t and it will not be until every person eligible for the vaccine receives the vaccine and I am not talking about your country alone. I am talking about the whole globe. We are an interconnected world, dependent on each other, it benefits us all to get vaccinated. To help the poorer countries get the vaccine for their population, the WHO Foundation have an initiative called Go Give One – please donate to this. They say that $7 gives one vaccine to a poor country that cannot afford it. We can all do our bit to help. By the way, I am not affiliated by the WHO Foundation at all but feel we need to do this.

Adding to this, I want to express the steps we need to take going forward as this Pandemic continues and variants will appear that may affect the efficacy of the vaccines. I strongly encourage everyone to continue to wear masks, maintain 6ft of social distancing and wash our hands regularly. Avoid crowded places, public travel and large gatherings as much as possible. Until our Public Health bodies say that we have reached herd immunity, we should continue to take precaution. These steps apply to everyone – vaccinated and unvaccinated.

We need to keep in mind that this is a new disease that our experts are continuously receiving new data about. Guidelines may change according to the data. Instead of being annoyed that they have changed, let’s understand that circumstances change according to new information. Once we understand this, it is really easy to accept that some restrictions may get eased and then they bring those restrictions back. Instead of seeing it as control, we know it is about safety. We have to keep an open mind as much as possible regardless of how fatigued we get with the restrictions. However, politicians have to be honest with the public in regards of the severity of not complying to restrictions. It is about educating the public with respect. Don’t tell them that everything will be okay, instead prepare them that restrictions will be adjusted according to current data and it will always remain an evolving situation.

I don’t care about being preachy about this because like I said COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can lead to death. If you can book an appointment to get the vaccine, go and book it. Don’t delay it at all. The vaccines are a safer way to protect yourself and others. None of the doses of the vaccines itself will give you a COVID-19 infection as the doses do not have the live virus. I encourage you to read the CDC information on the vaccine.

I feel this is our duty and responsibility as a global citizen. Who knows what normal will look like going forward but all I can say is that today, you can stay safe.

Thank You and Goodbye 2020

2020 has had it’s fair share of challenges and gifts too. Nobody could guess that a pandemic like Covid-19 would bring the world to its knees and it seems that most of the world hasn’t been able to stand up again.

My mum from the UK was able to visit us in the US and spend time with us. It was before the pandemic and she returned to the UK before the world came to a standstill. It was wonderful for her to see my life here and it was nice to have her blessings! I just wished I worked from home more at the time.

This year has allowed me to move to a new position at my workplace which I am grateful for. My new team is great and I appreciate them a lot. Earlier in the year, I was facing redundancy due to a restructure but my new manager saw my skills and brought me onto his team.

Working from home has allowed me to become healthier, take care of what I eat and has also given me the time to meditate more, read more, exercise more and most of all, spend time with my wife Manisha ji more. We watched films, TV shows together and read (different) books together. We cooked together and I loved those moments, I felt like I was in the first year of my marriage again. It has also allowed us to spend time with our niece, Ekta, who is an absolute joy to be around. Spending time with the extended family has definitely been important for us.

But a bigger shoutout to my wife, who is on the frontline as a nurse. Not only is she working in a critical time, she is also studying for her Master’s and the way she has balanced this is truly remarkable and inspirational. She is an absolute gem and looks after me a lot. She also allows me to be lazy at times, which I definitely appreciate. Most of all, I love making coffee for you in the morning because I see the joy that it brings to you!

I have gained new friendships in this time and strengthened existing friendships . Two new friendships have been one where spiritual concepts are looked into deeply and we try to discover ways to further our spiritual journey. These conversations have been beneficial for me. In fact, overall my friendships have got stronger as we focus on spending time with each other. Before the pandemic, we could be together but our phones would be in the way. This time, I noticed we talked more, we interacted more, it was more personal. I really value all of my friends.

Let me thank you all for reading my blog, reading my work on Instagram, I truly appreciate your support and may this community grow stronger.

But 2020 has had it’s challenges and one of the challenges for me was when my youngest brother in the UK was in the ICU with a rare lung infection, he was on the brink of death. Being here in America, it was tough to not be there with my parents, my brothers to deal with this. Positive thinking did help but I was also ready to face the reality if my brother didn’t make it. I am thankful for the healthcare workers, the doctors that put everything into saving him. Thankfully, my youngest brother is at home and we have weekly catch up calls, which never happened before. So even though this was a challenging time with ups and downs, we made sure that we got the best of the situation. I am so thankful that my youngest brother recovered and is alive and well.

There have been deaths this year, some people I knew personally, some whom I didn’t know but my friends or family had lost someone and I felt the pain of loss that they were going through. This was definitely a difficult year in processing death. Losing people is hard enough but in the midst of a pandemic, we have had to evolve our ways in saying goodbye. I take this moment to pray that anybody that has lost somebody in their family, in their friend circle, may they be given strength and acceptance. I also encourage them to seek professional help if needed and to let go of any taboo that surrounds it.

So as we go into 2021, let’s start it on a powerful note. I started this morning with listening to the Gayatri Mantra and spent some time contemplating on this.

Bhuh Bhuvah Svah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yo nah Prachodayat

Physical, mental and Spiritual existence,
That, which is Radiant Light and most Beautiful, 
I meditate upon That which is Illuminating and Divine,
Enlighten our intellect. 

To understand the above, let’s dwell on it. Aum symbolizes the Ultimate Impersonal Reality – Brahman. So in the beginning of the mantra, this is what we focus on. Then we acknowledge that Brahman has It’s existence on the physical, mental and spiritual dimension. As we contemplate on It’s Fullness, we see That as the most Beautiful and Radiant Light. It is referred to as Tat (That) so it remains Impersonal, it remains Formless. By acknowledging It’s radiance and beauty, we lead ourselves to meditating on That, which illuminates everywhere and is divine in nature. We then ask Brahman to enlighten our intellect so that we can embrace wisdom. It is wisdom that enlightens our intellect and that wisdom itself is Brahman.

With this prayer, I thank 2020 and welcome 2021.