It’s time to start shunning the ‘vaccine hesitant.’ They’re blocking COVID herd immunity.
Michael J. Stern May 2, 2021
Has-been rock star Ted Nugent told the world last week that he has COVID-19. Nugent’s announcement was an oddity because he previously called the viral pandemic a “leftist scam to destroy” Donald Trump. As I watched Nugent’s Facebook Live post, in which he repeatedly hocked up wads of phlegm and spit them to the ground, I got emotional when he described being so sick he thought he “was dying.” But when he trashed the COVID-19 vaccine and warned people against taking it, I realized that the emotion I was feeling was not empathy, it was anger.
For the better part of a year, as the coronavirus racked up hundreds of thousands of American deaths, the flickering light at the end of the tunnel was herd immunity — the antibody force shield that comes when enough people have survived the illness or have been vaccinated against it. “Go get vaccinated, America,” President Joe Biden said in his speech to a joint session of Congress, referring to the shot as “a dose of hope.”
…Herd immunity is slipping away because a quarter of Americans are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. “There is no eradication at this point, it’s off the table,” Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, recently said. “We as a society have rejected” herd immunity.
Hmm, no! “We” have not rejected anything. A quarter of the country is ruining it for all of us.
It’s not just wacky former rockers who have put herd immunity out of reach. It is white evangelicals (45% say they won’t get vaccinated). And it is Republicans (almost 50% are refusing the vaccine). In Texas, 61% of white Republicans say they are reluctant to get the vaccine or would refuse it. You can slap the euphemism “vaccine hesitancy” on the problem, but in the end the G.O.P., and the children of G.O.D., are perpetuating a virus that is sickening and killing people in droves.
A big part of the problem stems from the cultish relationship many evangelicals and Republicans have with the former president. They absorbed his endless efforts to downplay the danger of the virus and turn public health precautions into a political freedom movement. But the time for analyzing why these human petri dishes have chosen to ignore the medical science that could save them, and us, is over. We need a different strategy. I propose shunning.
Biden’s wildly successful vaccine rollout means that soon everyone who wants a vaccine will have one. When that happens, restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, barbers, airlines and Ubers should require proof of vaccination before providing their services.
And it shouldn’t stop there. Businesses should make vaccination a requirement for employment…Things should get personal, too: People should require friends to be vaccinated to attend the barbecues and birthday parties they host. Friends don’t let friends spread the coronavirus...
As a country, America has become too tolerant of half-witted individual autonomy that ignores the existential needs of the vast majority of its citizens.
Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelJStern1