Well, just when we figured that the pandemic was finally in our rearview mirrors, the virus has come roaring back, and the blame is now being focused on all those red-state anti-vaxxers. The pandemic and the vaccine have been politically weaponized.
Caveat: It is dumb to refuse vaccination, and I have myself been vaccinated. While I had a few doubts about the vaccine, they were outweighed by the far greater risk represented by catching COVID-19. As in much of life, it was simply a matter of weighing the respective risks.
But I can also understand why so many would be distrustful of the unrelenting drumbeat of public assurances that we have received about vaccination. We live in a time of widespread distrust of our institutions generally, and in this pandemic our institutions have shamelessly squandered their credibility. Both sides have been dishonest and guilty of politicizing the pandemic and the vaccine. How did we get here?
To answer with a juvenile whine: "You Democrats started it!" Recall that Biden and the Democrats initially attacked Trump's prudent travel restrictions with China as "xenophobic," and claimed that the threat of a pandemic was merely a tactic to distract public attention from the impeachment proceedings which had them so worked up. Oops.
Then, the Democrats and media engaged in a continuing campaign to shout down any discussion of the now widely accepted theory that the COVID-19 virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, branding anyone who dared accept that theory as a racist who was inciting violence against Asians. They are quieter now that the FBI has concluded with "moderate confidence" that the virus came from the lab, although other agencies lean towards a natural origin. Perhaps they should have considered the conflict of interest of the scientists and officials leading the attack, and their role in funding the dangerous research at the Wuhan lab.
Of course, we witnessed the flip-flopping of Dr. Fauci on the protection afforded by wearing masks. First they were recommended protection. Then, once supplies ran low and he wanted to conserve them for medical professionals, we were assured that they really don't help much and we needn't bother. And finally, with the supply of masks restored, the advice has returned to not just recommending them, but requiring them. The efficacy of masks for protection has remained constant, but the agenda has changed.
In October, we had now-Vice President Kamala Harris casting doubt on the vaccine when she said, "If Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it." The same vaccine suddenly became so safe and effective once a Democrat took office that she wants it to be mandatory.
The media has dishonestly depicted anti-vaxx sentiments as only occurring among White Republicans in red states. For example, although African Americans in Texas are only one-sixth as likely to get vaccinated as are White Texans, when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of that state noted this, and the fact that they are a solidly Democratic constituency, the liberal media retreated to their usual "go-to" accusation for everything they find uncomfortable, and cried "racism!"
In their relentless efforts to depict red state folks as uneducated primitives, the media gleefully reported that MAGA folks were taking a veterinary anti-parasitic remedy, neglecting to mention that Ivermectin is also an FDA approved drug for humans. The impeccably honest Rachel Maddow falsely reported that one hospital in Oklahoma had been overwhelmed with Ivermectin overdoses, with her usual "can you believe these dolts?" smirk, and then refused to retract her hoax until shamed into it. Of course, we recall how the media blamed Trump for the death of an idiot who took an aquarium cleaning product because its name sounded similar to hydroxychloroquine, another FDA approved drug. We recall their undisputable scientific savvy when they concluded that mass demonstrations of screaming social justice warriors were safe, while spring break on the beach was suicidal. With a record like that, it is no wonder than many would be skeptical of the media's enthusiastic endorsement of the vaccine.
Viewing the vaccine with some caution is understandable. This is a new disease with new vaccines. We have no long-term experiences to draw upon. A substantial number of breakthrough infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have been reported. While I find the benefits of taking the vaccine worth the risk, the performance of our institutions helps me understand why others might suspect that their assurances are merely "group think." Science shouldn't be merely a reflection of what Twitter and other social media think.
In their shrill portrayal of vaccine skeptics as ignorant, uneducated, and unhinged, the media has incited much of the resistance to the vaccine, and inspired some of the nuttier theories going around. Dishonest and partisan reporting is guaranteed to harden positions.
If you want to be believed, you should first prove yourself trustworthy. As the old saying goes: "Trick me once, shame on you. Trick me twice, shame on me." Our media and government institutions can only blame themselves for vaccine resistance. Δ
John Donegan is a retired attorney in Pismo Beach who is just as tired of the pandemic as you are.