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Newsom & the state health department giveaway sweepstakes
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

Following the science is morphing many governors into the equivalent of carnival barkers.

But if the COVID-19 pandemic is a catastrophic public health event that has turned the world upside down imperiling the lives of 7.9 billion people, why are our political leaders acting as if they are hawking games of chance to get people vaccinated?

And perhaps the most perplexing of all is Gov. Gavin “Ed McMahon” Newsom.

Every other governor using federal COVID relief funds to offer big prizes to pump up the vaccination rates target those who haven’t gotten their shots yet with million-dollar incentive prizes.

The big prizes in Newsom’s “Vax for the Win” sweepstakes are primarily benefiting those who had already been vaccinated before it was launched. Today the state’s COVID lottery headquarters — better known as the California Department of Public Health — is sending the California State Lottery a list of random number identifiers of people previously vaccinated. The state lottery folks will then do a random selection of the identifying numbers and send them back to the public health department. The health agency will then match the numbers with names and contact the winners.

The process will be repeated on June 11 for 15 other Californians.

The big draw is June 15 when 10 lucky Californians could get Newsom doing a Publishers’ Clearing House publicity stunt by ringing a front door bell and surprising a previously vaccinated person with a large cardboard check for $1.5 million with TV crews and the media in tow.

Actually, if you win you can ask not to be publicly identified. Rest assured, though, if you are OK with the release of your name Newsom’s political machine will use it to pump up his popularity with the recall looming on the horizon.

In fairness, the governor is giving away 2 million $50 grocery cards to the next 2 million people who get vaccinated.

It’s kind of hard to pooh-pooh the $50 grocery gift cards even if you have serious reservations about it being used as a motivation if it does indeed get people to get COVID-19 shots to further reduce its threat.

But rewarding people — 40 to be exact out of 17.2 million — who were already motivated to get vaccinated for their own health reasons or to protect others seems counterproductive as it won’t increase the vaccine rate save for those that got vaccinations in the three weeks leading up to the drawings. It just seems like a political stunt to increase the governor’s popularity in the face of a recall.

It’s debatable whether Newsom committed any transgressions or systemic leadership failure that warrants being the subject of a recall, but now that such an election taking place is a forgone conclusion, squirrelly moves such as doling out $16 million to people already vaccinated as part of a campaign to get the unvaccinated to get COVID-19 shots makes as much sense as using an Alaskan Grizzly Bear as a campaign prop.

The governor should go back to the science and have an adult conversation with Californians and an adult debate with lawmakers.

The subject: Mandatory vaccinations.

Before anyone goes off the deep end it needs to be put in context.

The pandemic has been billed — and one could make the case correctly so — as an extraordinary extreme public health crisis. Exhibit “A” is the death rate and the sheer number of those facing compromised health going forward after becoming ill with COVID. Exhibit “B” is the cure to stop the spread that was essentially gutting the economy.

Even if you view yourself as an anti-vaxxer those two points aren’t exactly debatable.

Based on those two items alone, elected leaders in Sacramento are arguably derelict in their duties to not at least consider debating legislation to make mandatory vaccinations at least a requirement for schools.

If children aren’t vaccinated against a number of highly communicable diseases, the state doesn’t entice their parents to get them shots with $50 gift cards to buy toys at Target or Walmart. Instead, the state allows them to go to public school where they can get an education costing taxpayers north of $150,000 over 13 years. Extremely narrow exceptions are carved out allowing some youth not to be vaccinated.

The reason we aren’t having the debate is contrary to what the media — and the Internet insult cesspool — leads one to believe. Those hesitant to get vaccines can’t be exclusively labeled as right-wing nuts, conspiracy theorists, hardcore Trump supporters, or prehistoric cavemen.

Instead, those hesitant are from across the political spectrum, come from all ethnic backgrounds, and are a rainbow of social-economic considerations.

Yes, those who are college educated have a higher vaccination rate as do those with higher income but it is far from being 100 percent.

The majority of those not vaccinated, especially in California, have to be Democrats, independents and or non-voters simply based on the sheer number left. Could it be mandatory vaccination is not on the table as politicians on both sides of aisle knows opposition is significant and cuts across party lines?

The science shows vaccinations are reducing the ability of COVID to spread. While they are not fool proof providing protection to those receiving them from getting ill or spreading the coronavirus are in the high 90 percent range, they clearly make a difference.

In all likelihood what will happen is we will reach an acceptable death rate, such as with the flu, so we can go about our business.

Speaking of the flu, you haven’t heard nary a peep.

That is because the protocols to fight off COVID — face masks and stepped up sanitizing procedures — apparently have done a number on the flu.

Documented cases have dropped 99 percent in the United States in the last year.

During the 2017-2018 flu season the Centers for Disease Control verified 959,000 hospitalizations and 61,099 deaths from the flu including 600 children.

The number of pediatric deaths dropped to 109 last flu season. This flu season the United States recorded only one flu death of a child.

Other viruses and bacteria have taken a hit as well. Chickenpox, as an example, is down two thirds from pre-pandemic levels.

If we want to improve the health, economic well-being and — heaven forbid — actually reducing healthcare costs, our elected leaders need to spend less time channeling Santa Claus and more time pursuing long-range solutions that have sticking power such as adding COVID-19 shots to the list of mandatory vaccines one needs to be enrolled in a public school.