I got my flu shot today.

It’s only the second time I’ve got one. I did last year because I was taking classes at Columbia, and as teachers know, students are pretty damn germ-y. I was worried that I’d pick something up at school and bring it home to Kin, who seems to get sick from every virus he comes in contact with.

I’m not out-and-about much now that I’m back in Hermosa Beach. Indeed, Kin is one of the only people I’m in regular contact with. But I decided to get the needle jab today nonetheless – partly as I’m doing a little bit of traveling this fall, but mostly because I feel compelled to do something for the good of the herd.

Herd immunity. In this wealthy little beach town, folks don’t seem to care much of the herd. Affluent communities in California have some of the lowest rates of immunization in the US. When I asked the pharmacist today if a lot of people had been getting their flu shots, she laughed in my face.

The main street here is dotted with stores that sell all sorts of pseudo-scientific “health” aids: you can get botox injected into various body parts, and you can get IV drips to help you overcome a hangover; you can even get a variety of vitamin booster shots. Clearly it’s not the needle that’s scary. But god forbid you vaccinate yourself or your children against measles, whooping cough, or the flu.

Obviously, this is all deeply caught up with misinformation and disinformation campaigns that have part of the population fearful about the supposed dangers of immunizations. But there’s something to be said here too, I think, for the ways in which too many people – too many people in my neighborhood – believe that whiteness and affluence will shield their families from disaster, believe that they can somehow protect the individuals near them without any consideration for the rest of society.

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


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