It has been a hugely informative and entertaining knockdown, drag-out comment battle over vaccine hesitancy the last few days on not just one but two posts on the topic. It’s time to add another. One irony of long comment threads, which make me happy as a blog proprietor, is that many readers don’t have the patience to pick through them. I’m sometimes guilty of that myself.
This Comment of the Day by Ryan Harkins on Humble Talent’s own provocative (to understate it) Comment Of The Day on my post, “Theater Ethics Meets Pandemic Ethics: If I Were Still Running My Theater Company And We Had A Large Cast Show In Production…” deserves to be highlighted. Here it is (and I forgive Ryan for not calling the virus by it’s rightful, earned non-partisan name.)
First, I want to take exception to conflating hesitancy to take the COVID-19 vaccines and anti-vaxxers. There’s a huge difference between being skeptical about one particular vaccine and being skeptical about all vaccines. And conflating the two blurs the issues and dismisses out of hand legitimate arguments and concerns.
I stand in an odd position, because I oppose getting any of the COVID-19 vaccines, and I have been vaccinated. I took the double doses of the Moderna vaccine when it became available at my workplace. Was it to protect my family (my wife is pregnant with our fourth)? Not at all. We’re all healthy, and the odds of the coronavirus having any effect other than a harsh cold for my household is surprisingly small. Was it because my workplace pressured me into it? No, though I will cite that the 14 days paid sick time goes away if I snag a sufficiently large batch of SARS-CoV-2 and I’m not vaccinated.
So why did I get the vaccine? At the time, I believed it the right thing to do to help the efforts of reaching herd immunity. So what has changed since then? Let’s consider my thinking, meandering as it is.
I don’t think there’s any legitimate argument against the efficacy of the vaccines, especially the Moderna and Pfizer variants. I agree they reduce the infection rate, they reduce the virulence of infections, and they reduce the death rates. I also think, from a standpoint of trying to reach heard immunity, the vaccines go a good way towards accomplishing that.
Do I support people in their hesitancy with regards to the long-term side effects? Absolutely. We’ve had tremendous success with vaccines over the course of the last century or more. Vaccines are one aspect that has helped us achieve such extended lifespans. But we’ve also seen drugs and vaccines and therapies come onto the market, and then have their approval revoked when some unanticipated side effects emerge. mRNA vaccines have been under development for 20 years or more, but until now they’ve never been marketed. There’s bound not only to be side-effects, but a large number of unanticipated side-effects, and it is reasonable to want to wait until more information is available. Certainly an FDA approval (which is rumored to be coming soon for Pfizer) would go a long way to assuage fears. Until then, it is reasonable to wait. But that’s not the reason I’m opposed to taking the vaccines.
Do I look at the numbers? Yes, I do. Does it appear that currently there are higher rates of side-effects reported than for any other vaccine in recent history? Yes. VAERS is seeing a surge in reporting on the COVID-19 vaccines. AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson were halted in places over concerns of larger-than-expected numbers of side-effects. Does this justify not getting the vaccine? Not necessarily. This is a balancing act. If the side-effects of the vaccine are less frequent in cases and severity than acquiring COVID-19 naturally, then the numbers still recommend the vaccine. And I believe the numbers currently show the balance to be in favor of the vaccines. This could potentially flip with the Delta, Lambda, Omicron, Babylon 5, or Death Star variants, but we still have to wait for time and data to reveal what’s happening there. So that’s also not my reason for opposition.
So why I am opposed to getting the vaccine? In true “Retards for Freedom” [Editor’s Note: this is a reference to Humble Talent’s COTD.] fashion, I’ll cite freedom. Not from a standpoint of my-body-my-choice, because I don’t believe that. (I oppose abortion, remember?) It doesn’t pass a societal test, and it doesn’t pass the Catholic moral theology test. But there’s a greater concern going on here, and I believe it is encapsulated in the vaccine passports and the threat to freedom that represents. Vaccine passports are the gateway drug into the full oppression of a populace. Show your party credentials, or you’ll be thrown out. We’re already seeing that New York. No restaurant access without the passport. And if the government can get away with forcing such passports on us, do you really, truly, honestly think they’ll stop there?
Maybe I’m being heavily influenced right now as I’m reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William Shirer (“Hi, my name is Ryan, and I’m falling into the ‘my opponents are Nazis trap…’”), but it certainly seems that if the government can revoke rights because of crises, they will continue to create crises so they can continue revoking rights. Eventually they will have such a precedent of success in revoking rights that they’ll just do it without a crises. And by then, it will be too late.
Will more people die if people don’t get vaccinated? Probably. But that’s the cost of pushing back against the totalitarian mindset besieging us. I see this in the same light as the gun debate. Yes, more people will die due to guns by keeping gun ownership a right. But it is a cost that has to be paid to keep freedoms intact.