A medical worker prepares a coronavirus vaccine at Barzilai Medical Center in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on Dec. 20, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Gil Cohen-Magen-AFP via Getty)
A medical worker prepares a coronavirus vaccine at Barzilai Medical Center in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on Dec. 20, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Gil Cohen-Magen-AFP via Getty)

My granddaughter won’t get vaccinated, and I can’t change her mind

My granddaughter insists she’s not an anti-vaxxer. It’s just this vaccine, the Covid vaccine, that’s a problem. Using the words “my body, my choice,” she said she has a “constitutional right” to reject what she believes is a problematic if not a dangerous vaccine. A born-again Christian, she says her position is supported by the Bible.

It is not a position supported by the Constitution or by HIPAA privacy rules, although both have been cited by anti-vaxxers. It is not a position supported by the “Choose life” principle of Deuteronomy 30:19. It is not a position supported by her parents, and it is not a position by which I can abide.

That is why I sent her an email saying that “I have a heavy heart” because I won’t be able to see her during the upcoming holidays. Because of our ages and health factors, my husband and I are in the high-risk category. Nobody who is unvaccinated comes inside our house, and we are not visiting them.

After our sad 2020 outdoor celebrations of Thanksgiving and the December holidays, will we be out in the cold again?

“I know you feel vaccination is a personal decision,” I wrote, “but we don’t live on a desert island. We are all in this rowboat together, and I know you would never be able to live with yourself if you caused a loved one to become ill or worse.

“… I hope you can find it in your heart to change your decision and no longer be a danger to those who love you.”

We spoke. She understands my position amid my family’s risk factors. She can respect my decision to not see her. The best we could come up with is continuing to respect and love one another, while agreeing to disagree, but it is difficult. I can respect differences of opinion when it comes to religion and politics. However, I cannot respect the repetition of falsehoods that endanger health.

This granddaughter believes that government agencies are inflating the number of Covid deaths. I am more concerned that the deaths are underreported. But facts have little to contribute to a discussion when the other person cites what Kellyanne Conway called “alternative facts,” and when our worldviews do not align.

My granddaughter is concerned about government’s overreach. She will not watch CNN and she doesn’t trust the mainstream media. I am part of the media. I became a reporter because I believe in speaking truth to power, calling out injustice, striving to better the world.

Sadly, we live in a split society.

In Carolyn Hax’s Washington Post advice column, a letter writer using the pseudonym “Frustrated” wondered if her long-term friendship could be saved. She wrote that her unvaccinated friend is oblivious to the increasing dangers of Covid, especially given the delta variant. Meanwhile, the unvaccinated friend thinks “Frustrated” is overreacting, overly cautious. Hax proposes a blunt conversational opener like, “You’re wrong but I love you — can we stay friends?”

In my case, that would not work. Telling my granddaughter that she is wrong would only cause her to dig in her heels and spout more misinformation and half-truths.

On the phone, she talked about the role of faith, and she also cited the example of an acquaintance who developed neurological damage after receiving the vaccine. She said she has countless other examples.

I don’t dismiss the role of faith, but it’s not a substitute for medicine. As far as neurological damage, she is correct, but the risk of contracting Guillain-Barré syndrome is 1 in 128,000. Pit that against the 700,000-plus Americans who have died of the virus and the hundreds of Covid sufferers who are begging for monoclonal antibodies, at a cost of $2,000, because they refused to become vaccinated at a cost of $20 to their provider.

I have science on my side, but so what? When it comes to Covid, I cannot reason my way into erasing my differences with my granddaughter. More to the point, preserving a relationship may mean letting go of the need to be right.

By sharing my concerns, I fulfilled my duty as a grandmother. Like my daughter and my son-in-law, I feel it is more important to preserve the relationship than to persuade her or, as she says, “coerce” her, into changing her mind. If our databases don’t align, all a Jewish grandma can do is pray and forgive.

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of the forthcoming book “Love atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].