Tuesday, May 4, 2021


I’m thinking about vaccine resistance. 

There are millions of people who don’t want to get the Covid vaccine. The friendly way to refer to many of these people is to say that they suffer from “ vaccine hesitancy.” However, many of them are not just hesitant; they are adamant Covid deniers and vaccine resisters. There are vicious anti-vaxxers. According to recent polls reported by CNN, 26% of all Americans and 41% of Republicans said that they plan NOT to get the vaccine. 

I grew up in a sane world. When I was in primary school and in high school in France, we all got our diphtheria, measles, tetanus, polio, rubella and a few other vaccines. Mandatory, period. Prevents contagion and epidemics, saves lives. 
But now that we are going through the deadliest pandemic in a century, there is a “debate” as to whether the Covid vaccine represents an unacceptable infringement of human rights. Nuts. 
Keep in mind that America remains by far the top country in the world in terms of its number of Covid infections, both in absolute and in per capita terms. There is half a dozen micro-countries such as Andorra, Gibraltar and Luxembourg that have higher rates of Covid infection than we do, but not a single “regular sized” country exceeds our rate. There are still seven times more people per million infected with Covid in America than in India. Check it out. 
Also, the anti-vaxxer movement is mixed with right-wing extremist movements such as QAnon and fascist white supremacists such as the Proud Boys. For example, there is a group in California, and expanding into other states, called “Freedom Angels” (See Sacramento Bee, May 2, 2021). It is a heavily armed, largely female survivalist militia. It shares its agenda with other right-wing extremist and conspiracy groups. They all see vaccines as a common enemy. 
When it comes to public safety, precedents abound: Mandatory seatbelts in cars and helmets for motorcyclists, the progressively more invasive regulation of smoking, etc. Usually, people gradually adjust to such new regulations after a while. It took the anti-smoking campaign decades to become generally accepted, and everyone is the better for it. Hopefully vaccine resistance will wane similarly. 
At this time, though, there are some pretty weird outliers: To me, Tucker Carlson of Fox News takes the cake: The other day, he ranted as follows (and I am paraphrasing): If you go to the supermarket and you see a mother with her children walking down the aisle, and the family is all wearing masks, then it is incumbent upon you to alert the police and report that this mother is engaging in child abuse. Or, Tucker says, approach this person and ask her to take off her mask, because it’s making you uncomfortable. 

Another anecdotal case: The administration of a private school in Florida recently decided not to hire any teachers who get the Covid vaccine, and argued that teachers who get the vaccine may be fired. The rationale? The vaccine may have unknown side effects, and present a danger to the students. 
Such stories suggest that things are upside down: For example, everyone accepts by now the legality of mandatory seatbelt laws. Some of us may occasionally have been lax in complying, but we don’t hold protest rallies against seat belt laws. Yet, not wearing your seatbelt is a far less serious crime than refusing to get the Covid vaccine. The fool who doesn’t wear his seatbelt may die as a result, but that infraction will probably not be the cause of someone else’s death. On the other hand, your failure to get the Covid vaccine is a direct threat and danger to OTHERS. 
Voluntary vaccination can not hide behind the 'individual rights' smoke screen. If someone's behavior causes damage to another person, don't we usually have laws in place to prevent it or punish that behavior? Refusing to get tested for HIV, smoking indoors (second hand smoke), not wearing a mask in confined public places, all those fall under that category. Not wearing a seatbelt or a helmet does not. I don't care if you don't wear a helmet, but if you drive your motorcycle over the sidewalk at 80 miles an hour, I do. Is it so hard to understand that individual rights must take the backseat in the current situation? The common good is more important 

Clearly, Covid vaccination should be mandatory in many sectors of society - the military, schools, hospitals, restaurants and many other venues. This is a no brainer. If you do it for measles, surely you should do it for a deadly disease which has killed more Americans in one year than any other event in our history, and which is currently infecting millions of new cases every day around the world. 

Unlike India, Brazil and other less fortunate countries, the US has ample supply of vaccines. It is the patriotic duty of all Americans to become vaccinated. To be or not to be vaccinated is not a human rights issue. It is an issue of stupidity. 
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