As a society, we’re pretty bad about allowing those in the public eye the opportunity to grow as humans, whether it’s a comedian telling an inappropriate joke 10 years ago or a politician’s evolving ideology. Too often public perception is rooted in the idea that you are who you are and you cannot change.
With that in mind, I think we should praise Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich for recognizing he was wrong and wishing he had done better.
Kimmich has not played since Nov. 6, having now missed more than a month because of Covid-19, first in quarantine and then having contracted the disease itself. Last week he confirmed he’ll be out until at least 2022 as he struggles to cope with the long-term effects of Covid-19, including liquid in his lung.
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence (read: not anecdotes about your cousin’s friend’s testicles) that the Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, Kimmich was vocal in his opposition to the vaccine — until he caught the coronavirus. Now he’s admitting he made a mistake and should have gotten vaccinated.
“For several reasons, it would have been better to have gotten an earlier vaccination; there are many good reasons to get vaccinated,” Kimmich told German public-service broadcaster ZDF on Sunday. “Maybe I had to go through what I have now gone through first. Of course, looking back, I would like to make the vaccination decision earlier, but at the time it wasn’t possible for me.”
While it would be easy to revel in schadenfreude as Kimmich struggles with Covid after being so against Covid vaccines, I think we should admire his willingness to change his mind. Sure, he should have listened to the scientists the first time and avoided missing at least two months of game time, but at least he’s able to publicly admit fault. Germany education and research minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger tweeted commendation for Kimmich’s vaccine reversal.
Es ist eine gute Entscheidung, dass sich Joshua #Kimmich nun gegen Corona impfen lassen will.Als Fußballprofi und Nationalspieler ist er für viel Menschen Vorbild. Mehr Impfungen sind der Weg aus der Pandemie. #impfen #Corona— Bettina Stark-Watzinger (@starkwatzinger) December 12, 2021
“It is a good decision that Joshua Kimmich now wants to be vaccinated against Corona,” the translated tweet reads. “As a professional footballer and national player, he is a role model for many people. More vaccinations are the way out of the pandemic.”
Regrettably, it is far too easy for people to fall prey to the obscene amounts of misinformation available on the internet these days. For many who are not fully internet-literate, it’s easier to believe false or misleading anecdotes than the scientists who are trained to do research.
Kimmich appeared to be one of these misinformed citizens when he repeatedly stated he would not get the Covid-19 vaccine for “personal reasons.” After an outbreak within the club, Bayern Munich said it would cut the salaries of unvaccinated players who miss game or practice time with Covid-19 quarantines, which will cost Kimmich $432,000 per week he’s away from the team.
“I had a bad conscience, first of all towards my family who had to listen to reproaches, and then towards my teammates,” Kimmich said. “I was the one sitting at home who missed the highlight matches and couldn’t help the team. I let the team down by getting the infection and also by being quarantined twice because I was a contact person. This would not have happened if I had been vaccinated.
“There was no criticism from the team. They asked me, but it is everyone’s own decision that everybody has to understand. On the other hand, I understand that others get angry if someone misses out when important matches are to be played. I would also be angry. I fully understand that the club reduced my salary.”
Now having changed his mind, Kimmich said his (unnecessary) worries about the vaccine initially overwhelmed the information coming in from the scientific community. He said he recently planned to get the vaccine but became infected by Covid-19 first. It can be hard to comprehend all of the technology that has gone into creating these marvelous vaccines, so it’s understandable some would be skeptical of their efficacy. I just hope others follow Kimmich’s lead and recognize the vaccines are safe, effective and necessary.
“In general, it was difficult for me to cope with my fears and concerns,” Kimmich said. “Therefore, I was undecided for such a long time. Therefore, I couldn’t make this decision (to be vaccinated).”
Kimmich hits on an important aspect that needs to be appreciated and resolved if we as humans ever want to move past this horrible pandemic. I admit at times I want to just mock and ridicule anyone who refuses a vaccine, but that’s counterproductive, as it only serves to embolden the anti-vaxxers. Empathy and understanding is the path forward to convincing everyone to get the vaccine so that we can begin to get back to some sort of normal in the future.
I hope not everyone has to go through the difficulties of contracting Covid-19 to realize they should get vaccinated, but responding to anti-vaxxers with insults isn’t going to change anyone’s mind, which Kimmich spoke about.
“I have to say personally that some of the limits have been exceeded,” Kimmich said of criticism he received. “I also had the feeling that there was one or the other who tried to make a name for themselves through this situation. It wasn’t always just objective criticism.
“We always talk about respect, tolerance, openness — and these are precisely the values that I missed extremely in my discussion.”
Admittedly, I can find it extremely difficult to respect and tolerate those who openly flout and disregard science. While science is by its very definition an ongoing endeavor, when something is so clearly and obviously in the service of the greater good, it’s hard to accept views that actively harm the global community, and I must do better. We should strive to use compassion and empathy to explain why people should be vaccinated instead of mockery and derision.
Hopefully Kimmich serves as a role model for the unvaccinated, both as a warning for what could happen if you aren’t protected against Covid-19 and as an example of how it’s OK to change your mind and get the vaccine.
So get your vaccine — and your booster if you’re eligible. As Kimmich can attest, it’s better late than never.