I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of not just hearing about COVID-19 but the non-stop bashing of those who haven’t yet been vaccinated.
Apparently more than a few self-righteous individuals haven’t noticed but calling people collectively the unvaccinated all sorts of names such as idiots, self-centered, uneducated morons, right wing nuts, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers — you name it — isn’t going to convince someone to get vaccinated.
It’s no different than people who believe telling someone who is obese that they are fat and disgusting will somehow prompt them to lose weight.
This weekend I came across four people in Target who were getting their COVID-19 shots. I happened to know one of them.
She is a single mom who is the sole provider for her kids. When I asked, she said the delay was partly an issue of fitting the shots into her schedule. But until a few weeks ago she did not realize it wouldn’t cost her a penny and that she could get it practically anywhere that offered the vaccine shots. The prospect of a $100 charge had dissuaded her.
You’ve got to wonder if sites that people hit in large numbers such as Yahoo News kept popping up stories every day or so explaining there is no charge for the shots and even tailored stories to say where people could get shots what would happen.
Instead, Yahoo News feeds a predictable daily diet of stories and opinion pieces essentially bashing people that haven’t been vaccinated. They also manage to post stories on people who repeat theories and such that discourage people from vaccines. While they shouldn’t have a blackout on such stories as they are trying to reflect social media and Internet trends, they clearly are pushing the envelope in the pursuit of more clicks.
The single mom shared how a gentleman who had gotten a shot before her and was waiting for the 15-minute post vaccination observation period to end said he was not really worried about COVID-19 until the current surge. She said he appeared to be in his early 30s.
This is by no indication a solid snapshot of what people are calling “vaccine reluctance” but then neither are what seems are daily polls conducted to try and give insight into why people aren’t getting vaccinated.
Polls, as we should know after the 2016 election, have lost much of their mojo. Pollsters’ own research shows responses are skewed by people declining to participate for fear of being painted into a corner and those who are extremely happy to be driving home their beliefs.
There clearly is the potential for movement out there or people wouldn’t be getting vaccinated on the weekend at Target.
Now compare the COVID-19 vaccination drive against what was the previous largest effort to get people to voluntarily get shots — the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control in 2010 established a 70 percent annual vaccination rate for the country to strive toward to reduce flu illness and deaths.
The highest flu vaccination rate this country was able to attain since then was 49.3 percent during the 2018-2019 flu season.
In the past 11 years CDC stats show flu on an annual basis has sickened between 9 million and 45 million Americans, hospitalized between 140,000 and 800,000 people, and killed between 12,000 and 60,000 in this country.
Yes, it is a far cry from the 609,015 deaths as of Aug. 5 from COVID-19. Average those deaths across two years it is roughly five times a bigger killer than flu. Among those deaths 145 have occurred in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon. It is a number larger than the highest modern era annual flu death rate for all of San Joaquin County.
There is little doubt the COVID death count is more accurate than that from the flu.
Even so, there are three invaluable lessons.
The first is even though flu shots for years have been credited with reducing not only the number of people who become ill but deaths as well, the vaccination rate has never exceeded 50 percent.
The next point is this year’s flu — along with other illnesses such as colds — was virtually non-existent due to COVID-19 protocols with mask wearing leading the way.
The other is there has never been an all-out shaming campaign to prod people to get flu shots.
Perhaps if people who want larger numbers of those who are not vaccinated to get shots, they might want to refrain from playing political football with COVID even if those who are truly anti-vaxxers keep trying to score political points. It takes two to tango.
Instead keep the message positive. That means work to convince people to get vaccinated without employing ridicule, bullying, or outright shaming. It is not a productive way to build trust.
As for those vaccinated who take it as a personal affront they may have to wear masks while indoors in public places to help protect the unvaccinated by reducing the odds if they are carrying COVID but don’t get sick so they won’t spread it, keep in mind one thing: Children 12 and under cannot currently get vaccinated.
If wearing a mask means a kid may not get ill, extremely sick and be saddled with long lasting side effects that could hound them the rest of their lives after they recover or even die, isn’t a minor inconvenience worth it?
We need to tone down the rhetoric and come to grips with a little talked about point. The odds are extremely high that once we ease out of pandemic status COVID will still be around making people ill and killing them.
Much like the flu, we could see annual shots aimed at different variants just like we do know with new variants of the flu each year.
Seven months ago, a lot of people I know said they weren’t going to get vaccinated.
Today many of them have gotten shots.
It is doubtful any of them changed their minds due to bullying or shaming as it only makes people dig in their heels.
Ridicule is helping COVID stay at pandemic levels. So why do those that say they want others to get vaccinated double down daily with shaming those that aren’t vaccinated?