Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: How do you handle it when your own family shames you for getting the vaccine early? Got a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
I recently learned that the early vaccine rollout phase in my state includes people with a BMI over 30. For the record, I don’t support the existence of BMI as a medical tool, but since our system insists on using it, I don’t see anything wrong with letting my BMI work for me rather than against me for once. Since my own BMI meets the requirements for vaccination in phase 1A in my state, I was able to secure myself an appointment for the COVID vaccine. When I told my parents and brother, I thought they’d be relieved or even happy to hear the news. Instead, they shamed me for taking a spot away from someone who needs it, like a senior citizen or someone with a compromised immune system. They totally shamed me because they don’t think I’m “fat enough” to justify getting vaccinated now and I should just wait. What should I do?
Okay, there’s A LOT to unpack here. First, though, I want to make it very clear that EVERYONE NEEDS THIS VACCINE. Everyone. Every last person on this earth. The more people who get it, the better chances are that we’ll achieve herd immunity. If you meet your state’s requirements, there’s no such thing as getting the vaccine “too early.”
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s tackle the rest. If your BMI is over the minimum BMI requirement of 30, then guess what? You qualify to get the vaccine in your state. And you qualify because the government and medical professionals believe your body mass index gives you a greater chance of becoming seriously ill should you get COVID-19.
And while that is not a definite variable, nor would it be the case for every single person with a BMI greater than 30 (which almost half of all Americans have, by the way), but it’s an important variable just the same. Your need for the vaccine does not take away someone else’s need. It’s true that priority groups exist for a reason, but there is really no need to partake in the Suffering Olympics when it comes to which pre-existing condition or essential worker deserves the vaccine first. They all do. It’s a shame the rollout has been so disastrous and difficult, but that is not the fault of anyone in these groups. That’s a federal government failure, period. People can and should direct their anger there.
While we’re here, yes, the BMI is utter bullshit. A little background: BMI uses height and weight to classify people into categories like “underweight,” “healthy,” “overweight,” “obese,” and “morbidly obese.” There are absolutely no other factors taken into consideration to determine these classifications. Not genetics, not lifestyle, not comorbidities, muscle mass, bone density, overall body composition, and racial and sex differences — nothing. BMI was invented by a mathematician over 200 years ago — as in he wasn’t an expert in health, the human body, or anything medical.
The BMI has been used as a weapon against fat people for decades, as a way for insurance companies and medical professionals to give the extremely problematic and often inaccurate diagnosis of “just lose weight” as a universal treatment plan. It’s harmful, it’s often unhelpful, and it’s discriminatory in more ways than one. That being said, if this is a hallmark the federal government and the CDC is going to use for vaccine qualifications, then please allow me to rid you of any guilt or shame whatsoever in utilizing your own BMI to get a vaccine now.
Maybe this will be the push the medical industry needs to abolish the BMI once and for all. It probably won’t, though, so use it, baby! You can tell your family all of the above information, or you can tell them that herd immunity is more important than their self-righteousness. If it were me, I’d do both. Congrats on getting an appointment, and best of luck with your family.