To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate … That is the Question

I don’t know about you, but if feel as if I’ve been in my home forever. Forever began on Mar 9, 2020, and except for a brief respite when the world opened and it looked like we were going to have a normal life once again, we’ve gone back to a state of inertia and confusion.

Do we stay at home or feel free to go out if we’re vaccinated? Will the vaccines protect us against COVID, or do the vaccines only protect us against serious illness and death but not the virus?  Should we wear a mask indoors or not bother if we’re vaccinated? Should we follow the CDC’s advice or look elsewhere for information and guidance?

And then there are the flat-out questions: Is this ever going to end, or is this our new permanent reality? Why does half the population trust science and follow the ever-changing rules, while the other half believes the whole thing is overblown at best or a hoax at worst? What do you do if you’re a parent or school system that believes children should wear masks to protect them, but the governor of your state threatens to punish you by withholding funding for the schools and salaries for the teachers? How did a deadly disease become so politicized and contentious? Can this situation possibly end well?

The new director of the CDC calls what we are experiencing “the pandemic of the unvaccinated,” and there is evidence to back her up. According to the Associated Press, “Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day … could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.”

It seems impossible to change strongly held views. If an individual refuses to be vaccinated, nothing—including persuasion, reason, or even bribery—has worked to alter their position. In fact, only the death of a loved one or their own very serious illness has been effective, but that seems a high price to pay to convince someone to get a shot.

According to a recent article in The Guardian, “Businesses and local governments have stepped into the fray by mandating employees be vaccinated. California and New York City announced … that they would require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly Covid-19 testing.

“In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers – including teachers and police officers – will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly Covid-19 testing, making the city one of the largest employers in the US to take such action. The Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require healthcare workers to receive the shot.”

MSNBC reports: “As the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to strike communities nationwide, companies are stepping up their vaccine requirements, mandating that some or all employees get vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination.” The list of companies that have jumped on the bandwagon is long and impressive, beginning with Amtrak and Anthem and covering the alphabet to Walt Disney, Walmart, and The Washington Post.

Will this have an effect? I believe it will. Think back to the time when everyone smoked, even after the Surgeon General announced that smoking caused cancer and heart disease. People went right on risking illness and death despite the persistent warnings. But if we look around today at restaurants, meetings, offices, hospitals, airplanes, and government buildings, no one is smoking! What turned it around? Then, as now, businesses and local governments took a stand and outlawed smoking on their premises. Taxes were raised on cigarettes making them outlandishly expensive. Tobacco companies were sued and publicly exposed. It became downright inconvenient and socially unacceptable to smoke.

A blog post by Harvard Health Publishing disclosed that, “The 1964 Surgeon General’s report, and others that followed, have had a profound effect on the health of Americans, despite the tobacco industry’s concerted and continuing efforts to promote smoking. The percentage of Americans who smoke dropped from 42 percent in 1964 (the peak year for smoking) to 18 percent today.”

I predict that this action by local governments and the business world will provide the impetus for many people to find that it is downright inconvenient and socially unacceptable to be unvaccinated. It worked before, and it can work again.