Vaccines and Seat Belts: Playing the Odds

Vaccines and Seat Belts: Playing the Odds April 13, 2021

I got my second Covid vaccination today – the Pfizer, for those who are dividing everyone up into houses.

When I was 10 years old there was a terrible car wreck about a quarter mile from my house: a high-speed, head-on collision between two cars with early 1970s safety technology (i.e. – pretty much nothing). Everyone involved was killed, and one car burned in a way rarely seen outside of movies.

Word in the neighborhood was that the couple in the burning car survived the crash but then burned to death because they couldn’t get their seat belts unfastened.

I don’t know how anybody knew that. Maybe it was true and maybe it wasn’t. What’s certain is that the story made a huge impression on 10-year-old me. I refused to wear a seat belt from then on (Tennessee didn’t have a seat belt law until 1986 and didn’t enforce it until 2004).

That was a bad bet on my part.

The odds on a seat belt malfunction trapping you in a burning car are infinitesimally small. The odds on a seat belt preventing you from being thrown from a vehicle or crushing your head on the windshield are significant. I was in my early 20s before I actually looked at the statistics and the change was immediate. I buckled my seat belt the next time I got in a car and I’ve done it ever since.

Like wearing a seat belt the Covid vaccine isn’t certain, but it’s a good bet.

I have some friends who keep saying vaccination is “a personal choice.” I don’t see it that way, but ultimately they’re right – you can choose to take it, or not.

But the odds are clear: being vaccinated is a significantly better bet than not being vaccinated (those who cannot be vaccinated due to drug allergies or other medical complications have my deepest sympathies).

If you’re still undecided, I encourage you to play the odds.

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