Back in April, 2019, I posted a personal rant, Why I Am Adamant About Vaccination. This was way before Covid-19 and the more than half million American deaths. The issue was childhood vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella, and the like. I shared a deeply personal story:
During my first pregnancy, an antibody titer that revealed I’d had rubella as a child. A series of conversations with my mother and sister put together the pieces of my own family tragedy due to contagious disease. In most cases, rubella is a mild infection, except when a woman is pregnant. Contracted in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, babies have an 85% chance of Congenital Rubella Syndrome, including deafness, cataracts, heart defects, neurological issues, and other significant problems. The risk goes down as pregnancy progresses.
This is what happened to my baby sister.
My mother had been mildly ill, and I had been, as well. My sister Madeleine was born blind and with heart defects. She lived only 6 months.
At the time (1950) there was no vaccine, but there is now. Today this loss would have been completely preventable by vaccination, not just for the mother but for all the people around her. This is a public health issue that involves us all.
So when I hear the anti-scientific justifications for refusing to vaccinate children, I think of the baby that could have lived and the grief that haunted my mother the rest of her life. I don’t care about personal choice or fears of governmental conspiracies. None of them count in my mind against the lives of my baby sister, and everyone’s sisters and brothers.
I honestly do not care what their reasons are. This is not a “tomaytoe, tomahtoe” discussion where understanding through respectful dialog is the goal. This is about whether we as human beings are capable of acting for our common good (which in this case includes protecting our most vulnerable from preventable severe disability and death itself), at the cost of a much smaller risk and a little inconvenience. Do not ever try to convince me that this area of public health is an infringement on civil liberties, or is a plot on the part of Big Pharma. My sister’s life was more precious than your conspiracy theories.
Fast forward to 2020. People are dying or suffering chronic, debilitating effects from Covid-19. Not a handful here and there but by the tens and hundreds of thousands. As much as 80% of all Covid-19 patients experience some degree of long-term symptoms. All we had to stem this dreadful pandemic were tried-and-true public health measures: wearing masks, social distancing, isolating the sick, hand-washing and disinfection. And the same anti-science nonsense is going on. People are refusing to wear masks. They’re gathering indoors, although every public health agency and responsible news outlet is telling them this is the way the virus spreads. Even as cases and deaths surge and surge again, they reject both logic and science.
It’s 2021 now and we have several effective vaccines. None of them is perfect in terms of absolute prevention of Covid-19, but all of them have proven remarkable in 100% protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Even so, lies abound. Vaccine refusal, especially when coupled with rejection of public hygiene measures, threatens us all.
Add to the mix: the new variants. These are mutations of the original Covid-19 strain that are either more contagious, more likely to cause severe disease, or possibly resistant to the existing vaccines. And what’s the best way to stop them?
Rob Stein at NPR writes:
The vaccines are rolling out, and so far it looks like they work against the variants to protect people from getting very sick or dying. If enough people in the U.S. can get vaccinated fast enough while also keeping up safe behaviors, this could prevent another major surge of cases and deaths. It could also help prevent new, dangerous variants from evolving because the more the virus spreads, the greater chance it has to mutate.
In summary, I had long since run out of patience with people who put the lives of the community, including our most vulnerable, above their own convenience and anti-science bias. I have none whatsoever for those who refuse Covid-19 vaccination, discourage others from getting it, refuse to wear masks, yell in the faces of those who are trying to protect themselves, and so forth. As far as I’m concerned, they’re destined for Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell, realm of corrupt politicians, hypocrites, and sowers of discord. Or possibly the Ninth, wherein lie those who betray their communities, kindred, and guests.