I wrote this a few weeks ago, but never got around to posting it. Oh well..
Every so often, one commentator or another caterwauls pleas for national unity, and argues that, today, ‘we’ aren’t able to pull together, unlike the halcyon days of yore, in which national unity featured prominently.
The reality is, of course, much uglier (and I’m leaving the Civil War out of the discussion). During the Great Depression, plenty of Americans excoriated the New Deal and voted against Democrats, Martin Luther King died with net negative polling, and, during multiple wars, we instituted a draft when ‘we’ wanted to fight wars. Yes, after Pearl Harbor, many Americans went to their recruiting stations and volunteered*, but we still had to institute a draft. Coercion, at some point, was necessary.
Meanwhile, having had far more people die from a deadly virus than died in World War II (and over a much shorter time period), ‘we’ are not vaccinating like we need to be. Too many states are nowhere near close to ‘herd immunity’ levels, though the Democratic blue states are doing better than the Republican red ones. Unfortunately, COVID-19 doesn’t grade on a curve.
Since I mentioned the draft, I’m not suggesting that we should draft everyone who is still eligible for Selective Service and vaccinate them (really, I’m not). We do need, however, to recognize that a lot of people just aren’t going to get vaccinated on their own, without significant encouragement. Yes, there are structural issues, but there’s also a lot of dumbassery too, as the most common reason for not getting vaccinated still is misinformation. Some people just need to be knocked off their bullshit.
Here’s what I mean by bullshit (boldface mine):
Professional athletes have access to some of the best medical experts in the world, so the refusal of Darnold and others to get vaccinated isn’t a matter of inadequate information. Earlier this month, Ron Rivera, the coach of the Washington Football Team, brought in the immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett, one of the country’s top coronavirus experts, to answer his players’ concerns about vaccination. How many people who aren’t professional athletes get to question a scientist who helped develop the Moderna vaccine?
Montez Sweat, a Washington defensive end, was unpersuaded. “I’m not a fan of it,” Sweat said of vaccination. “I probably won’t get vaccinated until I get more facts and that stuff. I’m not a fan of it at all.”
Someone like Sweat won’t get vaccinated voluntarily, unless he is made to do so. A developer of one of the vaccines didn’t provide enough “facts?”
Meanwhile, the FDA needs to get off its ass and upgrade the COVID-19 vaccines’ status from emergency use authorization, so we can start to make vaccination, perhaps not mandatory, but strongly encouraged. Like Rhodes College in Tennessee did (boldface mine):
One private liberal arts college in Tennessee, another state with few vaccine mandates, is going a step further. Rhodes College will require viral testing for unvaccinated students and charge them $1,500 per semester to cover the costs of the public health surveillance.
“We think we will see a lot of students voluntarily vaccinated,” said Meghan Harte Weyant, vice president for student life at the college in Memphis. She said the fee is not meant to be punitive. But it might spur some holdouts to get shots. “There may be some students who maybe weren’t sure or kind of apathetic on the topic,” Harte Weyant said. “This might encourage them to do that.”
Rhodes plans to require vaccination if the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to a coronavirus vaccine.
To be clear, this is coercion, but I think we’re starting to get to the point where stronger incentives are needed, especially in light of the spread of the Delta variant in both the UK and Israel, both of which are heavily vaccinated.
Given the recent findings out of the UK that the effect of having children under 10 on household transmission is comparable in effect to having a household member infected with the Delta/B.1.617.2 variant, it is perfectly reasonable to tell parents and guardians of kids, especially of those kids who are not eligible or approved for vaccination, that, if the adults in that household aren’t vaccinated (or have a legitimate medical reason to not be vaccinated), then their kids are back to Zoom learning in September. We could have all government employees vaccinated and all healthcare workers vaccinated*** (again pending FDA approval). Want to fly? Get vaccinated. And employers should be able to establish strict vaccination policies**, if they so choose.
This, of course, would be politically risky, and though the Biden administration appears to be discussing such policies. But if we don’t, I think we will see a lot of hospitalizations and some deaths in too many parts of the country come late summer or early fall. It’s time ‘we’ do something.
*We should remember that there were lots of Americans during Our Excellent Iraqi Adventures who believed ‘we’ should hit them back (whomever them might be), but somehow just never managed to find their way down to the recruiting station.
**I don’t like using HR departments to enact public policy, but we are faced with a serious problem, so one does what one can.
***D.C. and Maryland have already done this (Sept. 30 date for D.C.), though it’s not clear what the penalties will be for failure to vaccinate.