Why So Many Americans Are Resisting a Vaccine Mandate
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
They’re asking questions, and they’re not getting answers that make sense to them
If we’re going to get through this pandemic in one piece, we'll need to have an open and honest dialogue around vaccination. But that’s not what’s happening now. Every day we’re presented with reasons to get vaccinated, but we’re not allowed to hear other perspectives. 93 million Americans have made the decision not to do something to their body that makes them uncomfortable, and our government and media routinely shame, threaten, and demonize them.
We can’t keep doing this.
“Hesitant” Americans aren’t necessarily Trump supporters, extremists, or conspiracy theorists. Many are like me: political agnostics who have growing doubts about the integrity of our institutions and those who run them. The “hesitant” aren’t stupid; many tend to dig deeper into data and focus more on “real world” implications than fear-inspiring headlines. In fact, one recent study found that those with PhDs are the "the most hesitant group." They’re not necessarily “anti-vaxxers” who oppose all vaccinations; many (like me) have been inoculated against nearly every disease known to man, from polio and smallpox to diphtheria, typhoid and measles. But more than anything else, these people are more likely to ask questions — and push back if the answers don’t make sense.
These Americans deserve a voice, so I’m going to try to explain what’s going through their minds. You may disagree, and that’s fine. At the very least, I’m hoping you will summon a little compassion for people who simply see things differently than you do.
“BREAKTHROUGH” CASES AND VACCINE EFFICACY
The recent rash of “breakthrough” cases has been a wake-up call for anyone who thought a vaccine would easily defeat COVID and get us back to “normal.” The incident in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where 74% of cases were fully-vaccinated (90% of whom tested positive for the Delta variant), has raised serious doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccine.
But data from other countries is also concerning: half of all infections in Israel (whose population is nearly 70% vaccinated) are now among the fully-vaccinated. More surprising are developments in Gibraltar (which has achieved nearly 100% vaccination): 32 new cases were confirmed in the second week of July: 29 were vaccinated, and only 3 were unvaccinated.
No, that’s not a typo. The unvaccinated represented only 10% of those who tested positive.
This “pivotal” new data has prompted the CDC to acknowledge that the vaccinated can carry the same amount of Delta variant as the unvaccinated, while still insisting that the “vast majority of transmission” is occurring in unvaccinated people.
But the optics here are bad. The risk of transmission by the vaccinated may be lower, yet it’s apparently high enough for the CDC to completely reverse its guidance on masks. The agency is now advising vaccinated Americans — who were rewarded with the freedom to abandon face coverings in April — to return to masking indoors.
More troublesome, however, is a new study by the Imperial College of London released August 4 that found the vaccine’s ability to prevent transmission is now only 50%. And on August 7, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky dropped yet another bombshell: “[W]hat they [Coronavirus vaccines] can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”
This doesn’t inspire confidence in the vaccine or motivate “hesitant” Americans to get jabbed; if anything, it makes them more skeptical of the vaccine’s efficacy.
As it becomes increasingly clear that the vaccine’s ability to prevent transmission is waning fast, experts nevertheless assure us it’s still “effective” because it achieves its primary goal: keeping the vaccinated from getting seriously ill or dying. However, as I’ll discuss later, there’s reason to believe vaccination isn’t solely responsible for the reduction in hospitalizations and deaths. Moreover, not all Americans require the same level of protection from illness or death.
The CDC seems terrified of more cases appearing, yet we're learning the vaccinated can spread COVID-19 as easily as the unvaccinated. Inquiring minds can’t help but wonder: What will vaccinating the entire population accomplish?
Gen Xers like me recall the success of childhood smallpox, polio, and measles vaccines. But how many of us who were vaccinated continued to spread these viruses? I think the answer is virtually none. The polio vaccine, for example, was 100% effective when fully-dosed, which is why we were able to eradicate the disease. The breakthrough cases were apparently so rare (and I mean “rare” in the true sense of the word, not the way it’s constantly used now) that mutations couldn’t evade the vaccine.
But that’s not what’s happening with COVID-19.
If recent events are any sign of things to come, this virus will keep mutating and spreading, despite our best efforts. Unless we can magically vaccinate every single human on the planet simultaneously, we may find ourselves taking “boosters” that are always a step or two behind the next variant. The problem is many Americans are old enough to remember FDA-approved medications and drugs that have been recalled after years of use in the general population. These people aren’t jumping at the chance to get injected on a regular basis with an mRNA vaccine incorporating technology that has never been used in humans beyond "warp speed" clinical trials, whose long term effects are completely unknown, and for which pharmaceutical manufacturers bear no liability whatsoever.
The “hesitant” are also asking two common sense questions: Why should I roll the dice with a novel vaccine (regardless of how “rare”the side effects are)? If I can still spread the virus to others, what’s the point of getting vaccinated?
They answer the first question by doing the math: they weigh the risk of “known” injury from COVID-19 against the benefits from an “unknown” vaccine, and decide vaccination simply isn’t worth it.
There are very compelling reasons for high-risk groups to get vaccinated, and getting this protection is absolutely critical for them. But that’s not the case for the overwhelming majority of people. Out of more than 112 million Americans age 18–44, only 25,634 have died from the disease, 95% of whom had underlying conditions. That amounts to a .02% risk of death (and far less if you’re healthy). For perspective, this is four times less than the chance of dying in a car accident.
While older Americans face a slightly higher risk, it’s not nearly as high as you might think. According to the National Institute of Health, people under the age of 65 “have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in pandemic epicenters” and deaths among those in this group without underlying conditions are “remarkably uncommon.” For those under the age of 12 without pre-existing conditions, the case for vaccination is non-existent: there have been virtually no instances of a healthy child dying from COVID-19.
The “hesitant” also question whether a vaccine primarily designed to mask symptoms, not prevent spread, will do more harm than good. Whereas an unvaccinated person is likely to manifest symptoms when infected and remove themselves from public, an vaccinated person is more likely to be an asymptomatic carrier, blissfully unaware they’re spreading the virus. The fact that 74% of Provincetown cases and 90% of Gibraltar cases were fully-vaccinated could indicate that this phenomenon is playing out now. This means the vaccinated could actually turn out to be more prolific spreaders of the virus than the unvaccinated.
Moreover, the CDC’s own research suggests that vaccination could contribute to the evolution of strains of the virus that evade protection. According to Fyodor Kondrashov of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, “the more people are infected, the more the chances for vaccine resistance to emerge” and “[b]y having a situation where you vaccinate everybody, a vaccine-resistant mutant actually gains a selective advantage.”
Although the CDC hasn’t broadcasted this concern publicly, it's likely the reason why the agency has done an abrupt about-face on its masking guidance: it realizes that mass vaccination of all Americans —not just those at high-risk — may, ironically, be fueling the emergence of variants.
So if the vaccinated still need to wear masks, and the vaccine offers little benefit to most people because they’re at such low risk of getting seriously ill or dying…then what’s the compelling reason to get vaccinated? As long as the vaccine protects those at greatest risk, why do all Americans need to get vaccinated?
HOSPITALIZATIONS AND DEATHS
You’d never know it from the scary headlines, but the Delta variant hasn’t pushed hospitalizations and deaths anywhere near as high as they were last year when the Alpha strain appeared. Medical facilities aren’t overwhelmed, and staff aren’t running themselves ragged (if you doubt this, check the current capacities at your local hospitals here).
This may be due to vaccination, but it might also be happening for another reason: the variants have become more contagious, but less lethal. You don’t need a medical degree to know that this is the natural course of most viruses: they typically become less virulent with each variant. Hard-wired into any virus is the instinct to survive. If it continues to proliferate while becoming more dangerous to its host, it reduces its chances of survival.
The data support this likelihood. Take a close look at the chart below.
The number of daily COVID-19 deaths started falling from its peak in late February when less than 5% of Americans were fully-vaccinated. Even in April, when deaths fell by more than half, only 20% were vaccinated.
In other words, hospitalizations and deaths may have started declining dramatically not primarily due to our vaccination efforts, but because the virus had already claimed a large percentage of those most vulnerable.
If we tune out the media chatter and hysteria, we can see that people are still getting sick and dying — which is, of course, tragic and unfortunate. But it's not longer happening at alarming rates. It’s possible, and even likely, that we are simply learning to live with this virus, as we’ve learned to live with influenza and other coronaviruses.
THE SOCIAL COST OF VACCINE MANDATES
Forcing 93 million Americans to get vaccinated against their will— by denying them employment, travel privileges, or the right to dine indoors — won’t end well for any of us.
This iron fist approach won't just alienate and infuriate these people, but it could also have disastrous consequences for public health measures in the future when a much more dangerous virus appears. If we’ve learned nothing else over the past decade, it’s that once institutions lose public trust, it’s almost impossible for them to regain it. Given the meager threat the virus poses to the overwhelming majority of Americans and the steady and substantial decline in hospitalizations and fatalities, are mandates really worth losing the trust and cooperation of nearly half the country?
More importantly, why is masking no longer an effective means of preventing transmission by the unvaccinated? For the past 17 months, we’ve been assured that facial protection is the best way to stop the virus from spreading. If there is genuine concern that the unvaccinated pose a greater risk of spread, a far less contentious way to address this growing divide would be to require (not recommend) that those who can’t provide evidence of vaccination wear masks indoors and at all large outdoor gatherings. Yet this option isn’t on the table. Why?
If we continue down our current path, we need to ask ourselves where it will inevitably lead. Will we require those voting at polling stations to be vaccinated? New York City is already restricting access to gyms at a time when Americans should be more focused than ever on maintaining good health. Can we expect hospitals to withhold access to medical services from the unvaccinated? Will states restrict access to grocery stores? Are we willing to doom some people to certain death by starving them for the sake of saving others?
If our government insists on forcibly vaccinating half the country, I suspect we may see things in the coming months that will shock and horrify us. If these things come to pass, please PLEASE keep one thing in mind: constitutional rights in a democratic republic should never be conditional.
This experiment in democracy already feels like it’s on the ropes and ripe for a T.K.O. But once we cross the Rubicon and trade our most basic freedom — the ability to choose what happens to our own bodies — for “safety”, then it’s officially lights out for America.
This is the hard line in the sand, people. And this is why the unvaccinated are standing behind it.
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