July 24, 2021 Wayne Northey

The Threat of an Unvaccinated South

COVID-19 patients are once again filling up hospitals in the Deep South as leaders struggle to get constituents immunized.

By Adam Harris

July 22, 2021

photo above: kyma.com

WN: Sadly, idiot politicians like the one mentioned in the second last paragraph (see if you can guess who!) are creating enormous smoke screens of outright lies, and thereby threaten potentially millions. For,

As [Shweta Bansal, an associate professor and an infectious-disease expert at Georgetown University] puts it, “Unvaccinated individuals are efficient fuel like dry wood for the fire of future outbreaks. Vaccinated individuals are like soaked wood—while it can’t easily catch fire, if it’s surrounded by dry wood, the chances are much higher.”

And guns and Bibles are used to scare people about the “government” coming to take those away. How asinine!

See As Virus Resurges, G.O.P. Lawmakers Allow Vaccine Skepticism to Flourish, July 20, 2021, by Jonathan Weisman and .

On Tuesday, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican who said he had received his first Pfizer vaccine shot only on Sunday, blamed the hesitance on Mr. Biden and his criticism of Donald J. Trump’s vaccine drive last year. Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, said skeptics would not get their shots until “this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one.”

And Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas pointed the finger at the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.

“Every time Jen Psaki opens her mouth or Dr. Fauci opens his mouth,” he said, “10,000 more people say I’m never going to take the vaccine.”

The political disparity in vaccine hesitancy is stark. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported at the end of June that 86 percent of Democrats had at least one shot, compared with 52 percent of Republicans. An analysis by The New York Times in April found that the least vaccinated counties in the country had one thing in common: They voted for Mr. Trump.

Amid those troubling trends, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was suspended from Twitter temporarily for writing that Covid-19 was not dangerous for people unless they were obese or over age 65. On Tuesday, she refused to answer a reporter’s question about whether she had been vaccinated, calling it a violation of the federal law governing the privacy of health care information. (The law does not bar an individual from speaking about her own medical status, or prohibit anyone from inquiring.)

Representative Madison Cawthorn, Republican of North Carolina, suggested that the Biden administration’s door-knocking effort was just a first step. Next, he said in an interview with Right Side Broadcasting Network, they would “go door to door to take your guns.”

Off Capitol Hill, some conservatives have become considerably more forceful. Utah’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, accused conservative “talking heads” of “literally killing their supporters” with their vaccine skepticism.

The conservative personality Sean Hannity told viewers on Monday night to take the virus seriously and get vaccinated. Steve Doocy, the co-host of Mr. Trump’s favorite news program, “Fox & Friends,” had a similar message on Tuesday morning.

But the messages on Fox remain mixed, as do the Republican Party’s.

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and a doctor, is trying to change the subject. At Tuesday’s health committee hearing, he escalated his long-running attacks on Dr. Fauci over whether the National Institutes of Health funded “gain of function” research — experiments devised to identify genetic mutations that could make a virus more powerful — at a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began.

Please see too: Vaccinated America Has Had Enough, by David Frum, July 23, 2021. We read:

I’m reminded of a line from Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” when two men seek donations from Scrooge to feed the poor during Christmas …

“Are there no vaccines?  Are there no masks?”…

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”DannyB, July 20, 2021, Unvaxed Trump supporter who spread coronavirus conspiracy theories dies of COVID-19

In April, people in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020 were two points more likely to be fully vaccinated than people in counties that Donald Trump won: 22.8 percent were fully vaccinated in Biden counties; 20.6 percent were fully vaccinated in Trump counties. By early July, the vaccination gap had widened to almost 12 points: 46.7 percent were fully vaccinated in Biden counties, 35 percent in Trump counties. When pollsters ask about vaccine intentions, they record a 30-point gap: 88 percent of Democrats, but only 54 percent of Republicans, want to be vaccinated as soon as possible. All told, Trump support predicts a state’s vaccine refusal better than average income or education level.

Part of the trouble is that pro-Trump state legislatures are enacting ever more ambitious protections for people who refuse vaccines. They are forbidding business owners to ask for proof of vaccination from their customers. They are requiring cruise lines, sports stadiums, and bars to serve the unvaccinated. In Montana, they have even forbidden hospitals to require health-care workers to get vaccinated.

Pro-Trump vaccine resistance exacts a harsh cost from pro-Trump loyalists. We read pitiful story after pitiful story of deluded and deceived people getting sick when they did not have to get sick, infecting their loved ones, being intubated, and dying. And as these loyalists harm themselves and expose all of us to unnecessary and preventable risk, publications—including this one—have run articles sympathetically explaining the recalcitrance of the unvaccinated. These tales are 2021’s version of the Trump safaris of 2017, when journalists traveled through the Midwest to seek enlightenment in diners and gas stations.

As cases uptick again, as people who have done the right thing face the consequences of other people doing the wrong thing, the question occurs: Does Biden’s America have a breaking point? Biden’s America produces 70 percent of the country’s wealth—and then sees that wealth transferred to support Trump’s America. Which is fine; that’s what citizens of one nation do for one another. Something else they do for one another: take rational health-care precautions during a pandemic. That reciprocal part of the bargain is not being upheld.

A study last year found that higher rates of coronavirus fatalities could be directly linked to watching Sean Hannity. What’s more, [Sean] Hannity’s COVID coverage surely had an impact on his Republican audience. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that “Ninety-three percent of Democrats say they either have been vaccinated or definitely or probably will do so; that plummets to 49% of Republicans.”, by Community last, Sean Hannity Finally Admits that ‘I Am Simply Not Qualified’ to Give Expert Advice

Biden’s America is home to vaccine holdouts too. But state and local leaders in Biden’s America have spoken clearly and consistently about the urgency of vaccination. The leaders in Trump’s America have talked a double game: Like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, they urge vaccination one day, then the next they fundraise by attacking public-health officials such as Anthony Fauci. The consequence of DeSantis’s weeks of pandering to COVID-19 denial: More than one-fifth of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States are arising in the state of Florida—24,000 recorded on a single day, July 20.

Biden’s America produces 70 percent of the country’s wealthand then sees that wealth transferred to support Trump’s America.

Compassion should always be the first reaction to vaccine hesitation. Maybe some unvaccinated people have trouble getting time off work to deal with side effects, maybe they are disorganized, maybe they are just irrationally anxious. But there’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of the unvaccinated are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Yes, they have been deceived and manipulated by garbage TV, toxic Facebook content, and craven or crazy politicians. But these are the same people who keep talking about “personal responsibility.” In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet.

David Frum poses a final powerful question:

Will Blue America ever decide it’s had enough of being put medically at risk by people and places whose bills it pays?

Please see also: The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online, by Sheera Frenkel, July 24, 2021. We read:

When the coronavirus hit last year, Dr. Mercola jumped on the news, with posts questioning the origins of the disease. In December, he used a study that examined mask-wearing by doctors to argue that masks did not stop the spread of the virus.

He also began promoting vitamin supplements as a way to ward off the coronavirus. In a warning letter on Feb. 18, the F.D.A. said Dr. Mercola had “misleadingly represented” what were “unapproved and misbranded products” on Mercola.com as established Covid-19 treatments.

In May, Dr. Mercola took down many of his own Facebook posts to evade the social network’s crackdown on anti-vaccine content. Facebook also recently removed his Feb. 9 article.

But Dr. Mercola has continued to raise vaccine questions. In a Facebook post on Friday, he used another study to mull how useful the Pfizer vaccine was against Covid-19 variants. One headline in the post said the vaccine was only 39 percent effective, but it did not cite another statistic from the study that said the vaccine was 91 percent effective against serious illness.

There is also this, that make a compelling case: America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong, by Ed Yong, July 22, 2021 In it:

Yong: I’ve never thought of it that way. We’re used to thinking of anti-vaxxers as sowing distrust about vaccines. But you’re arguing that they’ve also successfully sown distrust about unvaccinated people, many of whom are now harder to reach because they’ve been broadly demonized.

Rhea Boyd, a pediatrician and public-health advocate in the San Francisco Bay Area: Yes. The language we use around unvaccinated people comes with a judgment—a condescension that “you’re unvaccinated and it’s your choice at this point.” That attitude is papering Twitter. It’s repeated by our top public-health officials. They’re railing on the unvaccinated as if they’re holding the rest of us back from normalcy. But unvaccinated people aren’t a random group of defectors who are trying to be deviant. They’re not all anti-vaxxers. They’re our kids! Any child under 12 is in that group.

excerpts:

How did lifesaving vaccines become politicized? As Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein suggests, today’s Republicans are always looking for ways to show that they’re more committed to the cause than their colleagues are — and given how far down the rabbit hole the party has already gone, the only way to do that is “nonsense and nihilism,” advocating crazy and destructive policies, like opposing vaccines. That is, hostility to vaccines has become a form of loyalty signaling.

The outbreak that America is now seeing is exactly what Bansal and her team would expect based on their research. As Bansal puts it, “Unvaccinated individuals are efficient fuel like dry wood for the fire of future outbreaks. Vaccinated individuals are like soaked wood—while it can’t easily catch fire, if it’s surrounded by dry wood, the chances are much higher.” In other words, low vaccination rates in the South make this moment less safe for everyone there, and over time could jeopardize the country’s hope of ever getting the novel coronavirus more under control.

One reason public-health officials and local, state, and federal leaders have struggled to persuade the unvaccinated to take the leap is because the explanations people have for why they remain unvaccinated are so varied. “Low vaccine uptake is being driven by a confluence of factors that are being subsumed under the term hesitancy,” Henna Budhwani, a public-health professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who studies vaccine hesitancy, told me. Some people might be skeptical of the vaccines, and some people don’t want to discuss them with anyone—not even their doctor, she said. Meanwhile, she added, some people in rural locations may not have access to vaccination sites at times that work with their job, while “others feel that public health is telling them what to do, and because they feel that this messaging is promoting an infringement on their autonomy, they are responding with defiance.”

And because of the various causes, attributing the low rates to one group is difficult. In a state like Alabama, for instance, roughly 30 percent of white people, 27 percent of Black people, and 22 percent of Hispanic residents are vaccinated. “Regardless of race, the rates are abysmal,” Budhwani said. As such, “we need to respectfully reach into communities,” she continued, and that means continuing to engage with churches and schools as well as leaning on peer-to-peer messaging. “People tend to respond better when hearing public-health messaging from near peers, so for example, when trying to engage adolescents in Alabama, we should co-create messaging with adolescents and then these same adolescents should be involved in the delivery of the messages that they helped to create.”

Arkansas’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, and public-health officials for making the vaccines freely and widely available. Still, some politicians have continued to disparage the vaccines. Earlier this week, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama sent a letter to President Joe Biden imploring him to overrule a mask mandate for unvaccinated people at Fort Rucker, the military installation. “Our soldiers should not be intimidated or coerced by the government into taking an experimental shot that has death and other ill-effect risk associated with it,” Brooks wrote, in the exact sort of mistruth Budhwani and other public-health researchers hope to dispel.

Bansal remains optimistic about the chances for increasing vaccination rates—but that is, in part, because she feels that she has to. “I’m not sure I would have gotten through any of the last 16 or 17 months without optimism,” she told me. Still, she worries that without improved vaccination in the South, America will be stuck in a perpetual cycle of coronavirus waves.

Please click on: Threat of an Unvaccinated South

There is also: America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong, by Ed Yong, July22, 2021. In it:

Yong: We’re used to thinking of anti-vaxxers as sowing distrust about vaccines. But you’re arguing that they’ve also successfully sown distrust about unvaccinated people, many of whom are now harder to reach because they’ve been broadly demonized.

[Rhea] Boyd, a pediatrician and public-health advocate in the San Francisco Bay Area]Boyd: Yes. I feel enormously hopeful. If I was only going off what I saw online, I’d probably agree that everyone who wasn’t vaccinated is being selfish and difficult. But talking to people like those church groups has changed how I feel completely. Often, I see an entire family on the other side of the screen—kids and grandparents. People come. They come in groups. They’re willing to be vulnerable. They have questions. And their questions are all ones we have answers for. It’s not undoable.

Wayne Northey

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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