The State of the Pandemic: Anti-Vaxxers

I haven’t posted a Covid-19 update in a while, and it’s about time I did. Despite many Americans’ decision to pretend that the pandemic is over and it’s safe to go back to pre-covid activities, the virus is still circulating here — and much more so, in many parts of the world. What’s even more scary is that a large number of new cases are caused by the Delta variant of the virus, a much more contagious and potentially more dangerous mutation. And nationwide, cases are rising, but that rise is concentrated in states where more people are refusing the vaccine.

Vaccination rates are better in the U.S. than in most of the world. Currently, about 159,266,536 people in this country have been fully vaccinated. That’s 48.5 percent of the population, or 56.4 percent of the people who are eligible to receive the vaccine, which so far is limited to ages 12 and above. My own state, Virginia, is running a little better than that, with 53 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

But clearly, President Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of eligible people fully vaccinated by July 4 has not been met. At first, it was difficult to get the vaccine. Now, governments, doctors, and pharmacists are begging people to get themselves and their families vaccinated, and there are plenty of options for doing so. But many people have chosen not to get the vaccine. A few have medical conditions that preclude being vaccinated or that would render the vaccine useless. It’s the others who blow my mind.

Their reasons include paranoia, misinformation, and downright stupidity. Some say the vaccine is an experimental one that has been rushed through the approval process and is unsafe. That’s the only justification I’ve heard that’s actually based on logic, though I do disagree with it. More importantly, so do virtually all the experts. Nearly a billion people have been vaccinated worldwide. If the vaccine was unsafe — less safe than the risks presented by Covid-19 — I think it would be clear by now. And the risks posed by this coronavirus are not trivial.

The other reasons for not getting vaccinated are ludicrous — and the people who espouse them are almost entirely right-wing Trump-supporting Republicans. Some still believe — despite all evidence and more than 4 million deaths — that the virus isn’t real. They claim that it’s just the flu, or that it’s a hoax created by the left wing to discredit Donald Trump. This last explanation completely ignores the fact that the virus is infecting and killing people in every continent on Earth, even those were people have no reason to care about discrediting an ex-President of the United States. Nurses report ICU patients insisting, just before they are put on ventilators, that they could not possibly have the virus because it does not exist.

Others are afraid of the vaccine itself, for reasons that defy common sense. Some believe it turns your entire body into a magnet, so that you can place your house key on your forehead and it will stick. I am not making this up. Some claim that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is using the vaccination to inject Americans with a microchip that will enable him to track our movements. Seriously? Do they not realize that Bill Gates does not have to resort to such extreme and expensive measures if he wants to track our movements. He can already do it through our cell phones.

Like many colleges, my son’s school, James Madison University, is requiring all students to be vaccinated before starting school next month. I applauded this decision, and only regret the fact that JMU is allowing waivers for students who don’t want the vaccine, though getting a waiver comes with requirements for testing, masking, and other behaviors. But many parents are up at arms about the new rules. A lot of them are convinced, despite denials from the medical community and a complete lack of evidence, that the vaccine causes sterility.

The people who refuse the vaccine are often the same people who resist guidelines about masks and distancing (guidelines that the CDC recently relaxed, for reasons that seem more political than medical). And 98 to 99 percent of people who have recently died of covid in this country are unvaccinated. In other words, the vaccine saves lives. Yet, so many Americans are refusing it, while in other countries around the world, people are desperate for the vaccination but have no access to it. I especially feel for those who are immuno-compromised or who are under age 12. They are paying the price for others’ stupidity and self-centeredness.

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