Yesterday I ran into a casual acquaintance from our long, long Waiting-Out-Covid stay at the Airstream campground in the Georgia mountains. He is retired law enforcement and seems to have his head on straight. His wife operates a medical clothing store, and rumor has it that hers is a background in nursing. He and I talked of Covid-19 and its impact on our world: masking, no handshakes or hugs, no indoor restaurant meals, and perpetual vigilance against those who are not. And then I mentioned my vast relief when Kat and I became fully vaccinated, and how that re-opened our world. Then I told him about a recent Washington Post article which pointed out an extreme infection rate differential between the vaccinated and those not. Basically, infection and hospitalization rates are down dramatically, but only among the fully vaccinated. The rest are just as likely to get it, to be hospitalized, and die as before.
“Not to be nosy, but have you been vaccinated?” “No, I have not, and do not plan to get a shot. I think I had it early on and now have natural immunity.” I was stunned speechless. This guy is fit, somewhere in his 50’s, and strikes me as rather educated. He explained “I just think that this is a personal preference thing … this is the USA and we have certain freedoms and we have a right, a freedom of choice.” I bid him safe travels (they leave in a day or three) and went back to Kat, whimpering in distress.
Sleep helps us digest situations, plans, and words. Very early this morning I awakened with this thought: people should not be allowed to endanger so many others when there is an easy alternative. The rationale for near universal Covid-19 vaccination is this is the only way to slow this monster enough to prevent evolution of more contagious variants. We appear unlikely to get to 85% without some degree of governmental or employer-driven carrot and stick.
Think about it. You are required to buy liability insurance to keep a driver’s license. Most states require education, registration, and weapons training to get a concealed carry permit, although Texas just adopted a no-education, no-qualifications policy of open carry for all. (Wanna bet gun violence doesn’t triple in the Lone Star State?) We as a world completely eliminated smallpox through universal vaccinations, which was enforced by schooling only the innoculated. In the Vietnam era I endured Army Basic Combat Training and Advanced Infantry, they lined us up to get shots to prevent anthrax, bubonic plague, tetanus, and more, and opting out was not an option. While I was a little kid polio raged across the world. When Dr. Salk found a vaccine we all had to get that shot to go to school. A couple of years later the oral version of polio vax emerged, and schools lined us all up to eat that doped up sugar cube. More recently schools have required measles shots, but opened the door for the anti-vaxxers by allowing parents to opt out. Big mistake! Government, honestly and competently run, is a force for good. I think it will have to push us harder to reach herd immunity.
Ronald Reagan is famous for this philosophy: “The most dreaded words in America are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’!” So it’s Reagan’s fault that his GOP descendants spawned the absurd idea that laughing at science makes sense if you are ignorant enough to consider that sensible. In other words, there is a Constitutional right to act stupidly, even when it harms others, or many others. I just don’t believe that.