Photo of a gathering of Anti-Vaxx and Anti-Mask protesters.

COVID-19 Isn’t Going Anywhere, It Has Powerful Allies – The Vaccine Defiant

                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                        by Richard Cameron    Link to Richard's Facebook Profile Link to Richard's twitter profile  


 

COVID-19 Isn’t Going Anywhere, It Has Powerful Allies – The Vaccine Defiant 

Last Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has awarded formal approval of the Pfizer Comirnaty  (BioNTech) mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.  There is broad speculation in the media that the FDA’s formal approval will somehow be a magic elixer for both “vaccine hesitancy” and “vaccine skepticism”, thus leading to millions of unvaccinated Americans stepping forward to receive the jab. 

NPR reports that:   

The White House’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told NPR’s All Things Considered that he estimates the FDA’s “official stamp of approval” will convince as many as 20% of the 90 million vaccine-eligible people in the U.S. who are still unvaccinated to sign up.  “I believe that those people will now step forward and get vaccinated,” he said.

Is this actually going to happen?  While Dr. Fauci is held in the highest esteem here at National Compass, in terms of his expertise and his service to the country, I have to take issue somewhat, with his reading of the state of American reasonableness and rationality among those who have relied on every conceivable excuse or misconceived rationale to resist the vaccines. 

Vaccine Resistance By The Numbers

If you have a sizable percentage of the populous that distrusts science with the same fervency that they distrust “the government” – the notion of twenty percent of them volunteering to recieve one dose, much less two and possibly a third (booster), is akin to magical thinking.

There is no prospect of such a thing happening. To illustrate that, let’s have a look at this graphic from the Kaiser Family Foundation and their summary of the views of the unvaccinated: 

Infographic from Kaiser Family Foundation's survey of persons from various demographic categories, who are presently unvaccinated against COVID-19
Infographic containing data from Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey of persons from various demographic categories, who are presently unvaccinated against COVID-19. Survey was collected from July 15 to July 27, 2021.

Some key indicators from the survey include an age factor in vaccine fence sitting and defiance, the (30-49) group being prominent. Then there is the Rural + Suburban vs. Urban residential gap, with a total of 72% of unvaccinated Rurals and Suburbanites signaling that they are either going to “wait and see” or opt not to accept the vaccines altogether.

As expected, Whites, Republicans and the segment of religionists broadly categorized as Evangelicals, form the core constituency of the outright refuseniks and the so-called “wait and see” contingent.  Other recent polls, such as the Monmouth University poll from late June, fill in the picture of what political and social characteristics typify the holdouts.

One of the findings, is that  64 percent of those who believe that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and “stolen” from Trump, also have shunned the vaccine.

Is it reasonable to expect that the “wait and see” crowd will suddenly have an epiphany about the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine – or about the soon to be approved Moderna innoculation?  If one takes a realistic look at the present environment and the various social factors that are in evidence – the answer has to be no.

What is really going on with “Vaccine Hesitancy”?

For one thing, “vaccine hesitancy” is little more than a smoke screen.  An example of that arose in a Facebook thread this week, in which one individual (whose identity beyond the initials “I.W”, shall remain anonymous) was positioning their reluctance in the form of a spurious claim about the supposed “lack of development and testing”, i.e., the lack of long term data and studies.

This was in response to someone else’s meme post acknowledging that historically, vaccines such as those applied to diseases like Smallpox, Measles, Rubella and Polio, have been successful in rendering them all either virtually dormant or non-endemic.

Here was the person’s paraphrase of one of the most common fallacies in circulation about COVID vaccines:

Those vaccines we’re (sic) years in the making and testing. They knew they would work because of the amount of time and testing. I don’t believe that is true about the COVID 19 vaccine. That’s why so many breakthrough cases are happening with the vaccinated. Also why the effectiveness of the vaccine seems to be only for a short amount of time. I believe it was rushed for political reasons. This is a health issue not a political one.

In short order, this individual received a handful of well informed rebuttals. One was so well outlined and comprehensive that it convinced me there was no reason to engineer one of my own, thus reinventing a perfectly good wheel.

It was later that I learned that the gentleman that submitted it, D.H. Reid, is himself an author and is in process on a book that deals with the consequences that arise when willful ignorance and plagues intersect. Here is his response to the above quoted statement:

Anyone believing they rushed the vaccine would be 100% wrong. Do people not remember 2002, when the SARS epidemic appeared and it is called the SARS-Covid 19 pandemic. Scientists, virologists, endocrinologists, scientists have been working on the genetic makeup of the virus since 2002 in level-four biohazard laboratories, since there is no cure and it is in the same category as Lassa, Hanta, hemorrhagic fever.

A vaccination has been in the works for twenty years with clinical studies, experimentation and when Covid hit the world, the world’s scientists stepped up their research and developed a vaccine that isn’t a cure, but it gives the people a fighting chance, since they can still be infected, but at least their inner organs are protected.

Covid is an aerosolized virus that enters the throat, bonds to water molecules and that is why it is so contagious. With each breath, if the person isn’t wearing a mask, the infected particles go into the air, where new hosts inhale them and are infected. Even the vaccinated can spread it, since the vaccine doesn’t affect molecules in the mouth and throat regions.

Many nations in the world have pushed the vaccines and lowered the risk of Covid 19 dramatically. The ONLY nation in the world that is a hotbed of infection is the US because people made it political and refuse to take any precautions to safeguard their own health, their families, and those they meet on a daily basis.

With any airborne virus, it mutates over time and now the new Delta variant affects small children. Instead of protecting them, parents demand no masks, no precautions at all and then wonder why their children are now infected and need to be quarantined.

The vaccinations aren’t and never were a CURE for the virus, and just like diseases in the past, boosters are required until it ceases to exist. Sadly, at the rate many are going, that is never in the United States.      

David hits a lot of points in his demurrer to the original post, the most important of which, is that despite the impression too many unvaccinated people have, the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not the result of a compressed ‘Manhattan Project’ rush job that arose spontaneously with the final year of Donald Trump’s term in office.             

Is the mNRA vaccine a “rush job” or Johnny Come Lately?

COVID-19, is just an evolutionary sibling of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the R&D on vaccines to combat the spread of SARS and MERS-CoV had been underway for several years. 

Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor in the Department of Immunobiology and a Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at Yale University points out that,  “A lot went into the mRNA platform that we have today.”

Iwasaki, has conducted research on nucleic-acid vaccines — a type of vaccine based on lengths of DNA or RNA — for over two decades. Foundational research on DNA vaccines have been underway for around a quarter of a century and RNA vaccines have been in development as a result of a decade and a half of intense experimentation, according to Dr. Iwasaki, much of it on parallel tracks with cancer research.

The scientists who specialize in this field of vaccine development, will be the first to tell you that they are confident about the effectiveness and safety of them, so much so, that they and their families avail themselves of the innoculations without hesitance. 

Quote from immunology scientist Tobias M. Hohl, affirming his own confidence in the mNRA vaccines now being used to innoculate Americans against the serious health risks of COVID

As Nature.com points out, the effort to arrive at effective vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus was accelerated by a combination of advances that arrived in concert to enable a compressed timeline for production:

The world was able to develop COVID-19 vaccines so quickly because of years of previous research on related viruses and faster ways to manufacture vaccines, enormous funding that allowed firms to run multiple trials in parallel, and regulators moving more quickly than normal. Some of those factors might translate to other vaccine efforts, particularly speedier manufacturing platforms.

But the “lack of sufficient data and testing” objection is largely a disingenuous pretense – a beard, if you will, for people who are sensitive to the disapproval of friends and family that have been vaccinated and see it as a obligatory social contract.

The suspicious excuses for remaining unvaccinated

This plays out frequently on social media platforms such as Facebook.  Some combine their spurious hesitancy with claims that they “have medical conditions that prevent them from getting the vaccine.”

Without a doubt, there truly are a small percentage of people with legitimate pre-existing conditions, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome; documented alleric reactions to specific components of a vaccine like antibiotics; a few specific heart ailments and possible incompatibility with cancer treatments.

These are the only circumstances in which it is optimal for an individual to seek the advice of their physician on whether to be innoculated against COVID-19 or not.  In fact, it is advisable, and in many instances, critical for people with pre-existing health conditions to be protected against the virus.

The CDC reports that, “Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccines are recommended for and can be administered to most people with underlying medical conditions.” 

Nevertheless, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is best to give people who profess that they are unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons, the benefit of the doubt.

The evidence to the contrary might be if the person who is claiming an exemption, is also someone who posts militant anti-vaxx and anti-mask propaganda to their timeline in a conspicious fashion.            

The writing on the Anti-Vaxx and Vaxx Abstinance Wall

And now, to the question of whether Monday’s announcement on the Pfizer Comirnaty vaccine is going to precipitate a swarm of formerly reluctant unvaccinateds to line up for the jab.  Chances are that they aren’t going to.

That’s not merely me, a jaundiced observer of the current dysfunction of our society, waxing pessimistic.  No – many health care professionals that have been witnessing at the ground level the manner in which common-sense measures to put the brakes on the spread of this virus have been politically weaponized, are also not optimistic on the prospects.

NBC News spoke to Brian Labus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Labus told them, “If you don’t already trust the government, why would it matter now?  If the ultimate goal in their mind is to not get vaccinated, there are a multitude of reasons they will come up with.”

General Practitioner of Family Medicine in Reidsville, North Carolina –  Dr. William Luking, observes:

“It’s been such a slippery slope of twisted reasoning since the start of this that I’m skeptical that suddenly the FDA’s full approval is going to push a lot of folks over the finish line. I’m not cynical. I’m not pessimistic. I’m just being realistic.”

That impression is underlined by post vaccine approval media interviews such as with Missouri resident Matt Zeiss. Missouri is incidentally a state that is one of the hot spots of increases of coronavirus cases as identified on the Mayo Clinic’s heat map index and vaccine and protective face covering resistance.

Zeiss told the interviewer that “It’s only been a day, but I can say it’s provided a bit of reassurance that wasn’t there, perhaps moving the needle a bit.”

However, that was just him shifting his position on the fence slightly. Zeiss has no intentions of getting vaccinated. He still expresses the common juke move many are using to avoid personal responsibility. In his case, the rollout of the vaccines and the approval process, “feels rushed.”  

“I get why it was rushed. They had to do something, and fast,” said Zeiss, who asserts that he is ordinarily a proponent of vaccines. “That doesn’t mean I have to go out and get it. I can do more research and see how it plays out in the world, and if at some point we feel comfortable getting it, there’s no doubt that we will.” 

Actually there is considerable doubt that he or his family will. And something that is revealing and at the same time not surprising, is that Zeiss, on his Facebook account, (together with numerous photos of gatherings indicating no social distancing or mask wearing), discloses that he is a Trump supporter, adamantly denies that Donald Trump had any role in inciting the mob to launch an insurrection on the Capitol building on January 6th – and is an avid consumer of propaganda on the Fox News channel.

And even so, he’s far from someone who would embrace Qanon conspiracy theories or ever participate in some militant, extremist event. Just ordinary, everyday, nice people. And that is what is so disconcerting.

Your neighbors aren’t militant, just indifferent, apathetic

We already know that the hard core faction on the right that still believe the election was “stolen” from Trump, are baked into the cake as far as vaccine resistance. Yet, there is another layer of folks who demonstrate no outward evidence of fanaticism, that will not and cannot, openly subscribe to any cultural deviation that threatens their membership in the legacy tribe – particularly in the case of Mr. Zeiss, who is a worship leader in a local evangelical church. This is a war in which they prefer to appear neutral. 

We all know these folks. They’re regular folks and you have already attempted every approach to reason with them and persuade them and none of it is having any effect. They’re not openly militant, but just chronically apathetic and committed to marching in lock step with their peer group – White suburban Evangelicals in the 30 to 49 age group. Some may capitulate for reasons having to do with employer requirements, but not much else. 

Even so, let’s suppose that a majority of the three out of ten unvaccinated that are entertaining the “not enough data” defense, relent and get the vaccine, it will still not bring us to population immunity, which most virologists agree, needs to be in the 85 to 90 percent vaccinated range, to realize. 

And the irrational approaches to the question of vaccination, nearly defy the imagination. One person, “Catherine”, posting on the Tidelands Health Facebook page, made this nonsensical statement –  “when there’s no vaccinated people hospitalized is when I will think about getting the shot.”  Notice, not “I will get the shot”, but instead, “I will think about getting the shot.” 

Most people now on ventilators, fighting to breathe and in despair of their lives, would give anything to turn back the clock to the week or month before, when the voice of reason was calling out to them and they shrugged their shoulders and responded, “meh”.

The same individual, typical of millions of others who don’t have the faintest whiff of a clue about how the virus is spread, also stated, “I am not sick and getting the shot is not going to make a difference with the ones who are getting the virus. I didn’t give it to them so where’s your logic and how is this being disrespectful to the people who have died?”

Others on the page tried to enlighten this person to the known fact that most infections are passed to others by people who are asymptomatic, but to no avail.

The low hanging fruit has already dropped

Some will point out that we’re over 50 percent now, but the problem is that’s a plateau. All of the low hanging fruit consisting of people who actually are concerned about their own health, trust accurate and accredited science and care as well for the well being of their community, has already been picked.

National pollster Gallup surveyed over 1,000 workers in the U.S. between July 19th and July 26th and discovered that on the question of employer mandated vaccines, 9% are opposed to them and 29% are strongly opposed. Public and private employer mandates are going to, and are now, precipitating fights.

Photo of Staten Island Hospital Workers protesting their employer's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Medical centers and hospitals are slowly ramping up employee requirements for the vaccine and belligerent, combative resistance is on display everywhere.

Almost mirroring Matt Zeiss’ objections to receiving a COVID innoculation word for word, is John Matland, a CT technician working at Staten Island University Hospital, and one of the main organizers of the protests at the facility.

“For me, it’s a personal choice,” Matland told CNN. “It needs to be investigated and we are not giving ourselves time to investigate… We are just pushing this. It takes a lot more time and a lot more study and we’re releasing it on a global scale, and for me it’s not a wise move.”   

“A lot more time and a lot more study”, while the benefits of vaccination are already well known and unvaccinated people of all ages, including children, continue to get seriously ill and die.

Staten Island – an island of vaccine resistance 

Staten Island itself, is a natural environment of hostility towards mask and vaccine initiatives and equally not suprisingly, is both a vicinity of New York with a preponderance of Trump voters (Trump won over 62 percent of votes there) and a precinct with the highest number of new cases per 100,000 residents of New York’s five boroughs, at 222.62, according to city data. City-wide, the number is 149.81 per 100,000 population.

Aside from the New York regional dialect, you could take blue collar whites from anywhere – from Alabama to Iowa and they would be indistinguishable from the citizens on the island, in terms of values and priorities.

And from Staten Island in the East, we move now to the West Coast – San Diego, California and a county board of supervisors’ meeting – and from a soft spoken passive abstainer of vaccines in Matt Zeiss, to an unhinged, hellfire and brimstone prophet against vaccinations, mandated or otherwise, Matt Baker.

The video below, is from a S.D. County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on August 17, where public comments were taken on plans to adopt vaccine mandates for county employees.

One county resident, Matt Baker (aka, ‘California Viking’), used his time at the podium to vent in full psychotic meltdown mode about proposed vaccine mandates in San Diego county, during a San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on August 17.    

Baker, a protege of far right media conspiracy conduit, Alex Jones – spewed copious amounts of viral material, both literally and figuratively at board members and staff.

Employer Mandates – The War Has Just Begun

At present, in terms of healthcare facilities and provider networks, about 9 percent  have a mandate in place, but it remains a large font question mark how widespread mandates will be implimented, due to the apprehension among hospital administrators about losing staff.

One example of this is Houston Methodist Hospital, that reported that  in late June that 153 workers quit or were fired after they refused to get the jab. Related to that, more than 100 workers had sued the hospital in opposition to the policy, saying it was “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.” 

Jennifer Bridges, a former nurse at Houston Methodist who was fired for refusing to get the vaccine, told the Washington Post in May that she didn’t trust the vaccines because they lacked full approval. But now that the Pfizer-BioNTech shot has checked that box, the Post reports that Bridges told them that she and her allies don’t believe regulators really conducted an exhaustive review.  “Everybody who didn’t want the shot is literally appalled by the fact that it got FDA approved.” 

The tactics likely reflect the awareness on the part of the refusniks that hospitals are in a Catch 22, with so many localities where intensive care floors are stretched to and beyond the limit with the influx of sick people who opted not to be vaccinated. 

Caution – the lane ahead narrows

All of this again begs the question, what direction are we headed? One barometer is the present state we find ourselves in August 2021 in terms of casualties to the coronavirus pandemic. There are now, over 650,000 deaths total, since the beginning of the pandemic and the number of daily deaths is trending over 1,200 per day again – a tenfold increase in just one month.

Worldometers graph showing average daily deaths from COVID-19 from February of 2020 to the end of July 2021

By October, it is likely that the U.S. will exceed the 700,000 milestone in deaths. It’s difficult to argue that after a quarter of a million, then a half million – that three quarters of a million dead Americans will serve as a reality check, much less a wake up call for the sizable minority that have dug in their heels for the duration.

Even more distressing is that the increasing number of young adults and children as young as infants (Louisiana, Oregon, California and elsewhere) that are being hospitalized and dying, in spite of the long running fallacy that “children are not vulnerable to the virus.”  

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that:          

As of August 19, over 4.59 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. Over 180,000 cases were added the past week, reaching levels of the previous winter surge of 2020-21. After declining in early summer, child cases have increased exponentially, with over a four-fold increase the past month, rising from about 38,000 cases the week ending July 22nd to 180,000 the past week. For the week ending August 19, children were 22.4% of reported weekly COVID-19 cases.

As matters stand at present, there is no sign from anyone on the right backing off of the political weaponization of this pandemic and their fierce opposition to the measures born of desperation by public health authorities to apply the brakes to it.  Instead, you have the many familiar voices arrayed against common sense mitigation strategies, intensifying the political rhetoric that is red meat to their base.

Such are the comments of Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, in a letter to health officials in the Biden administration:  

“I see no need to rush the FDA approval process for any of the three COVID-19 vaccines.  Expediting the process appears to only serve the political purpose of imposing and enforcing vaccine mandates”, and later tweeting, “No one should be pressured, coerced, or fear reprisal for refusing any medical treatment, including the Covid-19 vaccine.”

If it is not clear that I am not cheering for defeat in this war against a deadly and debilitating communicable disease, let me make it clear – I am not cheering for defeat. 

Meme poster created by Tidelands Health network showing the breakdown of how many unvaccinated people are in their ICU ward and on ventilators as compared to people already fully vaccinated

Hope is NOT a plan

I sincerely and dearly hope that the element we’ve been discussing here comes to their senses and walks away from the conspiracy theories, joining the rest of us in doing the right thing – which is the only remaining legitimate characteristic of patriotism.

But hope is not a plan. You must have a plan based on the facts on the ground as they are and not what we wish they were.

The plan is not complicated. Protect your children from elected officials that are bent on using them for political human sacrifices to the dictates of Trumpublicans, Science deniars and opponents of COVID mitigation.

Don’t wait a minute longer to recieve your vaccination, wear a protective face covering (multi-layered cloth or N-95 mask) before, during and after and avoid situations where you are going to be pressed into close proximity to others whose COVID transmissibility and vaccination status you don’t know to be a fact.

Magical thinking plays no role in the plan. Critical thinking does.



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