Several years back, I had a life-changing conversation with a woman named Joan Blades. After establishing the progressive activist organization MoveOn.org, Joan pursued her passion of climate change advocacy diligently until she came to a major realization. As she often puts it, “we’ll never be able to make the progress we need with adversarial problem solving.”
So, Joan left MoveOn and started Living Room Conversations – as an attempt to bring people together across America’s many divides. And that’s how I met Joan and started working with her.
In Joan, I met someone open to hearing my honest questions about climate change – without being quickly written off as one of those “deniers.” And as a result, I found myself wanting to understand Joan more, and hear her heart. That’s when this surprising thing happened. Rather than the familiar place of feeling defensive about my own views, I found myself starting to pay serious attention to the level of fear I was hearing from Joan and other progressives I knew.
My perspective on climate change had not shifted, but something else did when I recognized the emotional burden people were feeling. One woman even told me she was suicidal about the state of our planet. As I wrote about at the time for the Huffington Post, “Shouldn’t their deepest fears matter to me, even if I didn’t as of yet share their belief and convictions?”
I’ve been reflecting on that again this week, after witnessing yet-more-ugly conversations between fellow Utahns about vaccinations – exchanges filled with anger and fear. Like many, I sometimes find myself reacting to them – joining in the anger-and-fear fest, with my own renditions of angst from where I stand.
But it hurts. I don’t like it. I don’t like the feelings it generates about fellow brothers and sisters – and I don’t like where that ferment leaves me inside.
Is there another way we could approach this?
The alternative to an American dialogue about vaccination? Of course there is. I called for an open “vaccine dialogue” this spring, because I believe in the power of opening our hearts to each other – and seeking true understanding together. I sometimes wonder if just hearing each other’s fears would be enough to allay some of the hard feelings.
Rather than trying to hear out the fears of the African-American community, we get provoked into endless complaining about too much focus on racism. And after each election, it seems we’ve grown accustomed to seeing one side taunt the other side – like bratty fans at a game…rather than be human together, and yes – “mourn with those who mourn.”
Yet on another level, I knew full well that Americans weren’t up to this right now.
We’re too mad. And in many (most?) cases, we’re wholly uninterested in hearing anything else from those who see it differently – glued, as we are, to the latest pundit declaration to reaffirm our own views.
At the same time, we keep being told that the conversation America needs to be having is simply emphasizing how safe, and effective the COVID-19 shots are and how much they are key to our national revival (anything to help convince the hesitant and unvaccinated).
That, of course, is not a conversation. Whether you are weary of it or welcome it, this would be better labeled an “educational campaign.”
In lieu of a real, honest-to-goodness vaccine dialogue in America – a conversation where we can really hear each other’s hearts and fears – I wonder if it’s time to try the next best thing.
Yes, a fake vaccine dialogue – represented below in a back and forth between two people who care about each other. [Although imaginary, the conversation below also contains a composite of true accounts people have shared over the last year].
If your family or friends or congregation are feeling the tension of this issue, consider sharing this. It might be helpful. [Fair warning, though: we’ve reached a point where even something that encourages deeper understanding can be labeled as “spreading vaccine hesitancy.” I’ve seen how those seeking to promote understanding on climate change, sexuality, and police brutality, have likewise been condemned as “hurting the cause.” If you accept such illiberal fears and allow them to motivate your life and dictate your decisions (even to the point of condemning efforts to promote understanding), I really have nothing more to say to you].
If it does still matter to you that we promote understanding on these matters, then I welcome your attention to and response to this (imaginary) dialogue between a grandfather and his granddaughter – after he sent out a message letting family members know he was concerned about being around them at the upcoming reunion if they hadn’t been vaccinated.
Email from Stacy:
Dear Grandpa, I got your note right before we finalized plans to come to the reunion. I’ve been looking forward to seeing everyone after the long COVID nightmare, but since getting your note we’re unsure whether we can or should attend. As you know, Dave and I have been trying to have kids for a few years – and now that we’re 3 months into our first miracle pregnancy, we’ve had to be especially careful about things others may not have much risk of. Although we keep hearing the vaccine is safe for anyone, including pregnant mothers, we know there hasn’t been a lot of research with pregnancy. And we’ve also heard stories of miscarriages happening after taking the shot, so we want to be extra cautious. Of course, COVID-19 itself is a risk, but it’s one we are okay taking.
We recognize that many have come to believe that anyone unvaccinated is a risk to others, including the vaccinated – as a potential carrier of the virus. If that’s a concern you have, we want to be sensitive to that – and understand if you don’t feel you can take the risk of having us there.
We’ll wait to hear from you before making plans. Regardless of your decision, know that I love you so much – near or far!
Your favorite granddaughter (:
Stacy & Dave
Email from Grandpa Bill:
Thank you, my for-sure favorite granddaughter Stacy. It made me happy to see your name in my electronic box of mail. And it was also refreshing to hear both your love and your sensitivity to the concerns I raised. (Far easier to just ignore it – and pretend like you’ve been vaccinated). As you know, your grandmother and I have been high risk for COVID – and were grateful to survive that scare last year when we both got sick. We grew up seeing vaccines make a difference for polio and malaria – and we both took it as a miracle to see a vaccine for this finally available. So, we were eager to be vaccinated – and grateful to have that available as a protection to our country. We were also reassured to hear the prophet encouraging it for members – and, of course, to see study after study confirming that the vaccine is safe and effective.
That’s why we sent out the note to the family, as a way to use whatever influence we have to encourage our posterity to do the right thing – and use whatever (little) leverage we have to hopefully persuade the undecided. That being said, we recognize there are always unique sensitivities with developing babies (congratulations!) and we respect you and Dave’s ability to know what’s best. Have you consulted with your physician about the decision?
That’s probably a silly question –just trying to be a good patriarch! Let me talk with your grandmother about your question – and I’ll get back with you, okay?
We’d surely love to see you, if at all possible. It’s been too long. One more question – I was curious about your comment that “many have come to believe that anyone unvaccinated is a risk to others.” Is that not clear from the science? That’s been our understanding.
Always your (favorite) grandparent….don’t tell grandma,
Response email from Stacy:
Thanks for getting back to me, Favorite Grandparent (except Grandma). We’ll wait to hear from you – and will respect whatever you decide.
We’ve definitely spoken with our physician, who’s helped us evaluate pro’s and con’s. She’d honestly like to see us get it, but we haven’t felt peace about it yet.
That’s what you and Grandma have always taught us to follow, right – the peace?
We have heard the science is clear. But that seems to be what we hear about other things too – including some things that go against our convictions as believers. Just the other day, a liberal-leaning mother in the ward insisted in relief society that “the science was CLEAR that gender transitioning was emotionally healthy for transgender teenagers.” I’ve heard similar absolute claims about children raised in families with gay parents being no different than any other child – and, of course, all this gets amplified by the media outlets eager to promote these claims.
Could the same thing be happening here? If we’re so skeptical about media claims in other areas, why would we be so trusting now? While yes, these are very different domains of research, wouldn’t it be okay to have caution and hesitancy about other claims of “scientific certainty” in the health arena? Some members who are cautious about scientific claims in sexuality seem willing to jump down our throats for daring to ask questions about the science around a relatively new vaccine.
You can understand, at least, our wondering. Thanks for hearing me out.
I love you no matter what,
Response email from Grandpa Bill:
Wow – that is an interesting question. Not one I’d thought of, I admit. But worth considering.
I have to say, it’s quite refreshing to have a conversation where there’s enough trust (and love) to be open with each other and ask questions. Makes me wonder why more people can’t do this in America? You’re right – it seems like on so many issues we’re ‘jumping down each other’s throats’…a phrase I confess to never understanding (wouldn’t that hurt?!)
I’m wondering if we could move this to a phone call, before making a decision. Partly because I’d like to hear your voice again, and partly because there’s more I’d be curious to ask you – as long as I’ve got your captive attention. (:
(No, I promise not to ask you about your temple attendance and scripture study while we’re on the call…hee hee).
When could I be free? Anytime. Retirement is a little like heaven – except for the back pain. Let me know when you could fit in a call.
Back to your question, I guess it’s true we tend to have different levels of trust in different areas of science. Your grandmother and I have always had a lot of trust in our doctor, ever since you Uncle Pete got better from cancer. I know people wring their hands about pharmaceutical companies, but in the day to day, we’ve been helped by so many good people in the medical system – and even by some of the medications themselves. I don’t know what we would have done without them!
I’m not sure I’ve ever gone against the wishes of my doctor, although I don’t begrudge you from doing so if you feel a lack of peace right now. As long as we’re bringing in metaphors from the conversation about sexuality, I do worry that your attempts to justify yourself could become one of those slippery slopes, like we see among some activist types on other issues.
Maybe we could go a little deeper on the concerns we have when we talk? You could share yours – and I could share a little more of mine too? Might feel good to have someone hear you out for once, no?
Look forward to hearing your voice, dear one!
Yours no matter what,
S: Hey Grandpa! Nice to hear your voice. I figure since you were sitting back in your lazy-boy watching ESPN full-time now, this was a good time to call as ever. Ha! We’re needing to finalize plans tonight to be sure Dave can get off from work. Glad to catch you at home. Is now a good time to call?
GB: You bet, darling. How is that scripture study going?
Just kidding. Nice to hear your voice too. It’s been far too long.
Let’s dive in. Why don’t you say a little more to help me understand why you (and I assume Dave, too) are declining your doctor’s recommendation. (And don’t worry, I won’t report you to the Authorities for spreading vaccine hesitancy. They don’t start rounding people up for the camps until at least next month…)
Sorry, your Granddad’s still a jokester!
S: Yeah – some people I know wouldn’t take that as a joke at all. There’s a lot of fears out there about restrictions on freedom and what that could mean. I’m not someone who would ever get up in arms if I couldn’t go to the grocery store instead (hurrah for InstaCart) – but some of my neighbors would go ballistic if they were restricted from attending a sporting event or concert anymore. I honestly worry what it would mean for our already fragile nation if a large proportion of Republicans felt singled out for lock-downs, forced masking, or other restrictions due to vaccine passports.
GB: Bring it on, baby! We know things are going to get rough before the Second Coming, right?
Just kidding. I need to stop joking about this all. That kind of spiraling conflict – I’m thinking of my own neighbor that boasts of having 20 guns – would be heartbreaking to us all.
There are no easy answers here. I pray for President Biden every day.
S: I do too – even though we didn’t vote for him (oh boy, there goes my Favorite Granddaughter status down the tube!) Back to your question. Concerns – let me break it down. This is just what I believe; I respect that many don’t. I’m honestly grateful you’d even care to know. Since you give me time to think about it, I’ve summarized them into a list of 3:
(1) Every death that has occurred is sad – and tragic. We should be united in mourning that. But we still wonder how accurate the overall COVID-19 count has been. Story, after story, we heard of people being diagnosed as positive, when they weren’t. And one friend of mine who is a nurse volunteered at a hospital in New York last year, and she had three people die on her shift. Two of them, she knew objectively had nothing to do with COVID-19 – but all three of them were labeled as COVID-19 deaths. How can we be sure that hasn’t happened more frequently? With all the talk about flu going away this year, I can’t help but wonder why so few raised the possibility we could have been mislabeling even some flu cases as COVID-19. That never even came up in mainstream news.
(2) This seems like one of those questions worth exploring (a little)– but Dave and I have been a little alarmed at how even honest questions haven’t seemed to be allowed. Over and over, we’ve seen people that seem sincere – and even with credentials – deleted off YouTube or Facebook. We heard recently of a group of parents whose kids had serious negative reactions to the vaccines who started a Facebook group to support each other – and that group was just deleted. Regardless of your conclusions about vaccination, I’ve been wanting to ask others, doesn’t this seem a little off? If it’s the full truth that needs to be promoted, can’t that be done without censorship and silencing? After all, that’s how we spread the gospel – by sharing the truth. Not by insisting no one can criticize it or raise any other perspectives (although, come to think of it – that might really help!)
(3) Lastly, we’ve heard far too many stories of people having some pretty serious adverse effects from the vaccine – and not just on developing fetuses. I get the difference between anecdotes and statistics, but every story is still one person, right? It’s hard for us to understand why so many people seem to insist they have nothing to do with the vaccine – and it must be some other issue. Just the other day I overheard a conversation where one person was telling a group about two people in their ward who took the vaccine after the prophet encouraged it, but developed some pretty serious complications – including one individual who now has MS-like symptoms and shakes uncontrollably, and another who has chronic migraines when they never had them before. These symptoms came right after the vaccine, and these two good members are struggling quite a bit emotionally and spiritually. Yet rather than showing empathy or curiosity, the immediate reaction from people in the group seemed to be explaining it away. I get the desire to educate and reassure. But when that requires us to pretend something is perfect, haven’t we stepped into dishonest territory?
Overall, my biggest question is: Is it really so hard to imagine someone having concerns like this? I’m shocked that people are so shocked when some of us do. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
There – I’m done. Do you want to ask questions before sharing your own list?
GB: Thanks precious granddaughter. That was articulate – and I’m proud of you for being so thoughtful. Almost thou persuadest me to be an anti-vaxxer!
Ha ha! There I go again.
S: I’m not an “anti-vaxxer” by the way – just feeling unsure about this one. But I know lots of good people who are. Would you disown me if I was?
GB: Ha ha! No way. It’s your voting for Trump that gets me tempted, though. Hee hee.
Thanks for your answers, Stacy. I’ve heard some of these kinds of things on Fox news. But coming out of your mouth, it sounds very different (you’re more likeable than Tucker Carlson, it’s true).
And to your main question, no – you’re right. I can see how someone who is thoughtful like yourself could have concerns. It’s true that with so little space to consider them, I also appreciate how someone in your shoes might look around and wonder, “why do people keep saying someone like me is crazy?”
I don’t think you’re crazy. But I do think you may not be seeing the whole picture. So, yes, I have a few questions.
First of all, no vaccine is perfect. And clearly different people have different responses. But when one side is raising endless hysteria about all the damage it can cause, maybe that’s why the other side feels a need to push back and correct the record. Could that overreaction be the bigger problem?
Second, you know I love a good story. But how have you decided it’s a good idea to trust a few stories, rather than the combination of stats? I’d ask the same questions about the random stories of a nurse in New York – or a person with a wrong test. Shouldn’t we trust the official statistics more than these stories?
Lastly, it seems to me the science is settled enough – and the risks serious enough (more on that soon), that it seems to me there’s a strong, public health case to get the right education out there. Wish we could spread the gospel this way, but alas – people don’t yet understand the risks of ignoring Christ on such a widespread level! (:
So, no, what you call censorship, I would just call some really amazing public education!
Back to you.
S: Wow. So funny how we can see things so differently! I sometimes wonder, “doesn’t everyone see how freaky all this censorship is?”
And you’ve answered that for me – not they don’t. Amazing how it can look very different to someone else I love and respect.
On the statistics and stories question, I do think we should pay attention to both. Sometimes the story people write off all stats. And sometimes the statistics people are like “oh, that’s just an anecdote – we should ignore it.” Let’s pay attention to both – and still ask questions about both.
That’s what I think. Now, your turn on the concerns.
GB: Okay, sweetheart – this won’t sound like news, since you’ve probably been hearing some of it out there – but maybe hearing it directly from your trustworthy granddad-who’s-never-wrong will help. (:
First, you know how much I want to stay around as long as I can for my grandkids and your amazing grandmother. But over the last year, I’ve seen more friends than I care about pass away. My counselor in the bishopric, our neighbor down the street, and even your grandmother’s best friend. Speaking of stories, that’s been a wake-up call! You talk about being unsure about the overall numbers. But I trust them. We’re not talking about some hot-button socio-political topic here. Why would they be lying to us about this? It’s serious – people are dying. I wish we could unite around the seriousness of the situation. That’s a starting point for me and your grandmother.
Second, vaccines have saved so many lives over history– and reports are that this one is now saving innumerable lives. Also, just as we expected, we are now seeing that it’s the unvaccinated people getting sick and dying. Shouldn’t all that be persuasive? Why isn’t it? It’s honestly just hard for us to understand why this isn’t more conclusive, at least to most people. Seems like politics are getting in the way of it – or something more than science.
Third, I know about the reports of some who say negative reactions have happened after the vaccine. Seems like Fox News seizes on each and every one of them as prime time news…doesn’t that seem a little dishonest? That brings us back to the statistics. Why are we allowing a handful of stories to guide the national conversation, rather than the larger statistics across tens of thousands of people?
Lastly, let’s talk about the Prophet. He has been pretty clear about COVID-19 vaccination, much to the relief of many of us. Yet some of the same people who have criticized gay activists for explaining away teachings they don’t like, are not trying to explain away this teaching they don’t like. Seems ironic. Your grandmother and I do feel like this is a question of faith – and whether people will trust the prophet. Isn’t that fair?
Do you have any questions for me?
S: Lots of great points, Grandpa. I’m having the same experience of appreciating a chance to hear it from your own mouth – without defensiveness or big cable news egos getting in the way. This is the best conversation about the pandemic I’ve had.
Your point about Fox News seizing on the stories is a really good one. I’m going to need to think about that. I wonder if it boils down to who and what you trust. So many people we know have stopped believing in the “official numbers.” Each time they hear of more “findings” released directly from Pfizer, they roll their eyes – “here we go again.”
And so, in an interesting way, when these official statistics come out, they project all the same distrust onto that. Once you’re convinced inside that you’re being lied to – then it’s true, you grab onto a single story to validate what you’re feeling inside.
But doesn’t this seem like something both sides do? We seek out the reports, stories (and numbers) to validate our own conclusions – legitimizing our fears and backing up our hopes. Maybe this is just a human reality – rather than exclusive to Fox News viewers?
GB: A fair point. There do seem to be examples on both sides…although it doesn’t seem equivalent to me. Go on.
S: I also wish we could unite, Grandpa. How painful if this were to divide and estrange us as a family!
I’ve been thinking a lot about a neighbor of mine, who is so troubled by the Church’s donation of millions of dollars to help spread vaccines, that she’s stopped coming to our ward. Now, she’s posting on Facebook about how the Church is in league with Bill Gates and the U.N. This is someone who used to be a stalwart in our ward – I love her!
Another friend is now insisting the Church is doing all this because it has stock in pharmaceutical companies. Nonsense. It gets pretty crazy, pretty quick.
But isn’t part of this because of the lack of open conversation? When half the country feels totally censored and silenced, can you blame them for just talking among themselves? And should that surprise us to see such conversation-in-dark-corners further polarizing perspectives?
GB: Maybe you’re right about some of the censorship. I think that’s a fair point. But how do you invite an open conversation without giving a platform to some of the craziness you describe?
S: Maybe that’s where some of the craziness gets sifted out – and we say together “no, that’s too far” – with people seeing for themselves what’s ‘out there.’ It’s like we’ve stopped trusting our ability to do that as a community – trusting someone else to do it. “Only the experts” can say anything about this, as you keep hearing.
GB: All this is so interesting. I mourn with you to see people pushing back from the Church and condemning the Prophets from sharing what they believe God would have us do. I suppose that’s always been the case – but this time it’s especially sad.
Maybe that’s what I should be focusing on. I’ve said what I felt I needed to say about the vaccinations. Rather than staying focused on that and hoping we’ll all unite, maybe your grandmother and I need to encourage our family to unite around a belief in Christ – even if we may differ in these other matters.
S: I like that, Grandpa. And I can promise you, I will continue to seek God’s guidance in our own family. I take seriously everything you’ve shared – and I’m going to be thinking about it all week.
GB: Well, you better make arrangements with Dave’s work, because you know your grandmother and I couldn’t bear to have you miss the reunion. And hey, if I keel over because I gave you a hug at the reunion, you know I’ll haunt you from the other side.
S: That one’s not funny Grandpa! I’ll wear a mask when I see you, if it helps you feel better – especially if you’re worried my hug might be lethal. That’s the last thing I want you to feel when I hug you! (:
GB: That would be sweet, darling. Can’t wait to see you!
Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D., writes about the implications of competing socio-political and health narratives – and what it takes to preserve public conversation where open exploration of truth in these matters is still possible. To read more, visit: http://unthinkable.cc
My friend is terrified of the vaccine. She knows three people personally who have had someone healthy close to them die within days of getting it. She has a niece who is now hospitalized with blood clots in her lungs after getting it. Her fears are not based on hearsay. Her daughter was just called on a mission and has to receive the shot in order to attend the MTC. Her daughter doesn’t want it but is willing to do it on faith in order to serve. How can one help this mother work through her anger at having to be in this terrible position of having to accept something on faith that is in conflict with what she feels is right with regards to the health of those she cares about? She is devastated that the joy of having her daughter serve is now overshadowed with this conflict.
I think it a good idea for there to be open communication about their experiences and the vaccine. I hope it is ok for me to share here. I am in my 50s. My mom and in-laws had the Pfizer vaccine with minimal side effects. My wife and I had the Pfizer vaccine. My left arm was sore for 2 days and I was tired after both shots for about a day. My wife did not have arm soreness but was tired for a day or so afterwards. My daughters had minimal side effects. My sons had the sore left arm and were tired for about a day. My co-workers and extended family on my wife’s side all had the Pfizer vaccine. One individual had flulike symptoms and stayed in bed for 1 day after second shot. No one else reported side effects and just stated they had the vaccine and it went ok. I shared this information recently with a non-vaccinated acquaintance at church, who said he was thinking more seriously about getting vaccinated. He had not yet spoken with vaccinated people about their experiences, so he is now part of this larger world of people communicating with each other about the vaccine.
I’m Bishop of a ward here in the states where this issue has been very divisive. We have had case after case (7 households, 14 individuals) with severe COVID in the last 2 months (when I say severe I mean severe symptoms, low O2 sats, multiple ER visits, long term oxygen use, etc). Our outbreak was delayed but it coincided with lifting of the mask reccomendation and the point of contact has repeatedly been at a ward function. Needless to say all those who have come down with the illness were not vaccinated. Many of them have been dismissive of the reccomendations from the beginning because of anti-goverment sentiment.
My struggle is I’m hesitant to find out who HAS BEEN vaccinated because then I’m accused of dividing people against each other in the ward. The majority of the ward has approached all of this as a political issue and not a public health issue. Those who have chosen to wear masks and play it safe have been mocked and bullied. And if you tell the world you’ve been vaccinated you’re cast as a virtue signaling lemming.
All of our family who was age appropriate was vaccinated with zero to mild symptoms ( six total, Pfizer and Moderna).
There are potentially serious side effects with this or any other vaccine.There are potentially serious side effects with COVID as well. From my observations I’ve seen far more from the latter.
Prayerfully pick your poison is all I can reccomend. Nobody gets out alive anyway.
Anonymous, just to provide a different perspective:
Almost everybody in my ward has gotten COVID. Nobody suffered any severe effects from COVID, including several people with serious pre-existing health issues. Many older or at risk people have been vaccinated, and several of them reported serious health issues from vaccination and have regretted getting vaccinated, especially when they already had COVID. Recent studies show natural immunity is stronger than the vaccine:
I am EQ secretary, so I get to hear a lot of what is happening in the many families in the ward. I have never heard of a case, not one, of people choosing to wear a mask being mocked and bullied. However, I have heard of dozens of people being insulted and pressured for not wearing a mask outside in the middle of nowhere hiking on a trail or on a bike ride. It has happened to me several times. I have never heard of a story of anybody being accused of virtue signaling for being vaccinated.
Did you know that the WHO does not recommend vaccination for people under 18? I hope you are aware of the most recent medical information for people in your ward.
Yes, people are approaching this as a political issue, rather than a health issue. That is definitely a shame.
I’ve lived long enough to see the “science” be extremely wrong. My mother was told breast milk was inferior to the sophisticated formula created by science. Pregnant women paid a tragic price in birth defects caused from taking the drug Thalidomide. I was treated like an idiot when I told my dentist I didn’t want my children to have mercury in their fillings. (no dentist will use mercury now that the “experts”acknowledge what many of us knew before, that mercury in your mouth is harmful.) Is science perfect? No. Does it do a lot of good? Yes. But there’s been no humility on the part of our experts throughout all of this. My point is that it’s hard to trust science when so many scientists and doctors have been silenced for even questioning the narrative about this virus from the beginning. Even Fauci admits they have been learning all along and re evaluating accordingly. So if they admit to not having been omniscient throughout all of this why would they not allow other very qualified scientists and doctors to have their views heard as well? Why would they have been so certain those others were wrong when they themselves admit to not knowing everything? And this same display of hubris continues on their part. And it doesn’t help our trust level now that we know that the main stream media and tech outlets purposely silenced the information about the virus coming from the Wuhan lab. I don’t care what one’s politics are how can anyone not see why there is a trust issue significant enough to cause vaccine hesitancy for a virus that has such a high recovery rate? The sister of my dear friend’s mother in law died suddenly the day after getting the shot. The father of my cousin’s best friend died right after getting it. Do we have proof it was the shot that caused their deaths? No we don’t. But am I supposed to just ignore these things? My niece’s cousin is in the hospital with blood clots in her lungs after getting it. Am I a fear monger for stating these things openly? What about the father and son in Draper, Utah damaged from blood clots? Am I just supposed to ignore these things as a few unfortunate exceptions? How can I? And the refusal of the experts to address these concerns openly only adds to the hesitancy. And the hesitancy also includes factors such as the use of cell lines from aborted babies used in the vaccine as well as the issue of government coercion. The most effective excuse one can use to exert power over another person is to say they have to do something for the “greater good.” There are many legitimate stats showing that herd immunity can be reached through the number of people having already been infected, but no one is allowing those kinds of discussions or discussions about the effective use of certain therapeutics to treat Covid.
There are many other ways to protect the health of the vulnerable without resorting to this kind of emotional, psychological, and physical blackmail.
Thank you for this, Anne. I find it powerful and important.
Anne, great comment.
One issue that doesn’t seem to have been raised in either the original post, or the comments (at least as of the time I wrote this), is that this virus mutates quickly and easily. The only place it can mutate is in a human host. Immunity from having had COVID-19 will last only as long as the surface area of the virus that an individual’s immune system happened to choose to target remains the same (and there are literally hundreds of possible points of interest. The area(s) selected by any given person’s immune system vary from individual to individual, “herd immunity” may not ever be reached from natural infections because they are spread out enough over time that the mutations can keep ahead of the population’s (variable) immune response. With a vaccine that *could* be administered in to nearly all of the population in a relatively short time period (absent vaccine hesitancy essentially everyone in US could have easily already been vaccinated for instance) the virus can be removed from population as a vaccine can be tailored to be effective against whatever form (variant) is currently circulating. Having 30% to 50% of the population refuse the vaccine means that we will likely never get to herd immunity (but we will likely shift from a pandemic situation to an endemic one) and we will just end up with about half the population getting booster shots and the other half getting sick once the virus mutates enough to overcome whatever flavor of natural immunity their body developed, and of course with a significantly non-zero percentage of the folks who will get it every year dying (not the multiple hundreds of thousands of folks we see dying per year currently, but quite a few on an on-going basis).
Part of me cynically says that this will be a self-curing problem (currently there have only been about 700 deaths from COVID-19 among the 154 million folks in the US who are fully vaccinated – versus a little over 600,000 deaths among the remaining 175 million or so folks). So the virus will literally “weed out” the hesitant over time (but certainly only a relatively small percentage of them 2 or 3% unless the mutations turn much more deadly). but it will impose a significant level of needless premature death on the world’s population, and will cost many many (needless) hundreds of billions of dollars in costs (possibly trillions) over the course of decades.
I see the rancor around COVID-19 as basically just one more part of a *nearly* broken political system in the US. I say “nearly broken” because the Constiutionally proscribed transfer of power happened despite the significant effort to stop it (for the first and only time in our country’s history) The ability of bad actors to abuse the tools of communication has out-stripped our (society’s) ability to sift and winnow the truth from the chaff. I think society will adjust eventually, but whether that adjustment is simply to become totally “siloed” (believe whatever Tucker or Rachel spews forth) or whether we somehow rise above the silos and make reality based societal level decisions I can’t predict. But sadly my money would bet on the silo outcome if I were a betting man (at least for the next several decades). The returns to bad actors under the current system are simply too great for it to go easily into the night. Once the Fairness Doctrine was repealed, the flood gates were opened. Now with social media and the Supreme Court reaffirming that no one in any political speaking space has any obligation not to mislead/lie I think the way to a reality based conversation (about anything politically related) is fundamentally blocked/tremendously difficult.
Also in the original post I found it interesting that while the two imaginary family members express their love and did affirm that they want to make progress, the only change that occurs is that the grand parents have to accept that their granddaughter’s family isn’t going to get vaccinated. (alternatively the only two other story lines that could occur is that the granddaughter agrees to get vaccinated, or they skip the reunion). And this is the nub – people either get vaccinated or they don’t, people either risk needless infection or they don’t. you can get a halfway/compromise vaccine.
JSH, I disagree with almost every sentence in your comment above, which is quite a feat because it is a long comment! But your sentiments are extremely common, and in fact I deal with people who agree with you on a daily basis, so I am going to let it go. But for you and other readers, I would like to link another point of view on vaccination that I believe needs to be internalized and considered:
I envy the authority and confidence with which your conclusions have been drawn and expressed. I really do. And these are the kinds of topics we need to see discussed and why and how those conclusions have been reached. If what you put fury is true then the powers that he have done a terrible job at educating the public on these things. Instead they just resort to propagandizing how safe it is and silencing any questions about it.
First of all people keep mentioning Tucker Carlson as one who is vaccine hesitant. I have not seen anywhere he has pushed against it. The only thing I’ve seen is his pushing back initially on certain racial groups being given preference as to who got it first or his pushback with the government coercion of it. The main Fox News physician has been pushing the vax all along. So am I missing something with regards to the references to Fox News?
I know physicians who don’t share the confidence you have in your arguments and who also have questions of their own. Such as:
Why aren’t more people talking about therapeutics?
Here’s more on immunity to variants if you’ve had Covid.
From the Lancet April 2021:
“A study in the UK reported in The Lancet by Victoria Hall and colleagues,8 called the SARS-CoV-2 Immunity and Reinfection Evaluation (SIREN) study, suggests that being seropositive to SARS-CoV-2 through natural infection protects robustly from asymptomatic and symptomatic reinfection. The study analysed data from 25 661 enrolled health-care workers between June 18, 2020, and Jan 11, 2021, including 8278 individuals with known previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, of whom the vast majority were antibody positive at enrollment and 17 383 individuals who were seronegative and had not previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2. 21 617 (84·2%) of 25 661 participants were women and 4010 (15·6%) were men, with a median age of 45·7 years. 87·3% of the participants were White, 6·9% were mixed race, 2·0% were Asian, 1·6% were Black, 1·3% were Chinese, 0·6% were from other ethnic groups, and 0·2% preferred not to specify. Individuals were followed up with questionnaires (every 2 weeks), PCR for SARS-CoV-2 (every 2 weeks), and serology (at enrolment and every 4 weeks). 1704 infections occurred in the naive cohort, while two probable (required supportive serological data or supportive viral genomic data) and 153 possible (two positive PCR results 90 days apart or an antibody-positive individual with new positive PCR test 4 weeks after the first antibody positive test) infections occurred in the SARS-CoV-2-experienced cohort. Additionally, 864 individuals in the naive group seroconverted over the study interval but were not counted towards SARS-CoV-2 infections. The authors report previous SARS-CoV-2 infection provided a 84% risk reduction for reinfection (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR] 0·159, 95% CI 0·13–0·19) and 93% risk reduction for those with symptomatic infections (aIRR 0·074, 0·06–0·10). Importantly, a variant of concern known as B.1.1.7 did circulate during the final part of the observation period, causing about 50% of all infections, but did not seem to have an effect on reinfection rates.
The findings of the authors suggest that infection and the development of an antibody response provides protection similar to or even better than currently used SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.”
From this article:
“In a recent British study, David Wyllie and others found no symptomatic re-infections from COVID-19 after following 2800 patients for several months. In fact, there have been no reports of significant numbers of re-infections after acquiring COVID-19 naturally.
Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, concludes from his experiments that, “The amount of (immune) memory (gained from natural infection) would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years.”
In this study which was published in Science, Crotty showed that antibody levels stayed relatively constant with only “modest declines at 6-8 months.”
Crotty reported that “Notably, memory B cells specific for the spike protein or RBD were detected in almost all COVID-19 cases, with no apparent half-life at 5 to 8 months after infection.” In other words, Crotty found significant evidence of long-term immunity after COVID infection.
Furthermore, Crotty noted, “B cell memory to some other infections has been observed to be long-lived, including 60+ years after smallpox vaccination, or 90+ years after infection with influenza.”
We have begun to study this, though we already know the answer — natural immunity against COVID 19 appears to be at least as good as vaccine immunity.”
And from MIT on possible side effects of vax
It’s not just wacko conspiracy theorists and Fox News addicts who want more questions asked and answered. My friend’s grandma died after getting the vax so it also isn’t just selfish people who don’t care about Grandpa who have concerns.
Re: Tucker Carlson and Fox News. Fox News has been pushing the vaccines just like all of the other propaganda stations (they are no longer news outlets) for months now. Tucker has simply made a few ancillary points, such as pointing out that some people are vaccine hesitant because of the VAERS database. He is simply trying to explain the viewpoint of vaccine hesitant people. And somehow this was controversial…why, exactly? And of course it is sad and hilarious at the same time that left-wingers and the establishment thought there was nothing at all wrong with the VAERS database as recently as a year ago, and now all of the sudden there is something wrong with it because people are actually reporting their experiences with the vaccines. Sigh. This is why nobody can agree on reality — people create their own realities and try to manipulate data and experiences so it fits into their realities.
Anne, another good comment. You are on fire!
Thanks for that clarification. Yes, it’s hard to see how even the VAERS stats are either ignored or spun in a way to support one view or another. I fear that true discourse on this and other controversial subjects will be held hostage by the two different universes that have been created by the media for us to choose to dwell in with no possible hope for passage between them.
Corrections on my previous comment. Sorry, i was in a hurry.
“If what you put FORTH” not “fury”
“Then the powers that BE” not “he”
I don’t think the issue of whether “native infection” confers long term immunity should be at the heart of the debate on vaccines (or that is even very relevant). Any immunity is good.
The issue for me is the number of people that die prematurely in the process of society reaching some type of effective immunity for the vast majority of the population. Vaccines are a way to dramatically reduce the number of deaths on that pathway. The only diseases that have been eradicated from the human condition have been done in by vaccines.
Currently, in Utah where I live, generally the people who want to be vaccinated have been and the government (Republican in all branches) is simply trying to convince (with little luck) the hesitant. Our Governor reports that between 95.2 and 98.2 percent of the people catching the disease, being hospitalized, and dying are the folks who are not vaccinated.
Cox continued, his voice rising with anger, that “they didn’t have to die. They don’t have to be in the hospital. But they’re dead now, and they’re in the hospital now, because they refused to get vaccinated.”
Since March 23, when vaccines became available to all Utahns 16 or older, the state has seen 28,233 new cases of COVID-19, and 98.6% of them were unvaccinated, Cox said.
Similarly, Cox said, 95.2% of the 1,625 Utahns who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in that time frame were unvaccinated — and 98.2% of the 113 Utahns who died from COVID-19 since March 23 did not get vaccinated.”
JSH, you wrote: “The only diseases that have been eradicated from the human condition have been done in by vaccines.”
This is simply not true. There are literally dozens of different known diseases that existed in antiquity that no longer exist today. They were eradicated over time through a variety of means that scientists don’t fully understand, but they did disappear. Many strains of influenza have disappeared over the years without a vaccine, and most recently SARS-CoV-1 disappeared without a vaccine. If you talk to epidemiologists, they will tell you that viruses come and go all of the time, and that viruses are simply unpredictable. This is why so many of us were upset at the extreme and counter-productive measures taken against SARS-CoV-2: history shows that viruses act in unpredictable ways and that quarantines and lockdowns, especially of those at less risk, are exactly the wrong thing to do. My dad locked down in his house for six months and did not go outside and did not have close contact with anybody — and he still got COVID-19. And then there are stories of people who did not lock down and never got the virus or if they did the effects were so minor as to not be noticeable. Don’t get me wrong: I do believe that people at high risk should be vaccinated for COVID-19. I am not an anti-vaxxer. I am just pointing out that many people exaggerate the necessity of vaccination, which is just one of the tools that can get us to herd immunity.
My mother was one of that tiny % who got vaccinated and then ended up in the hospital back in March. Obviously we tried (for a year, actually!) to keep her safe by following government recommendations and obviously we’re not anti-vax. All I’m saying is that everyone’s experience differs widely in this pandemic, and that it’s not helpful to minimize people’s valid concerns or their personal experience.
More to the point, what I got from the OP is not that we should be trying to change people’s minds. You can have a conversation with someone while retaining your strongly-held beliefs, and still acknowledge that they’ve come to a different conclusion, and respect that. On the other hand, it’s not good to hold dogmatically to a position that may be based on incomplete information or bad underlying assumptions. Having the humility to reach out and retain openness is difficult, but necessary in order for greater understanding to be reached. And even if no one changes anyone’s mind, understanding the opposing position is a worthy goal in itself.
For Cox to say that “those people didn’t have to die” seems like an example of an overly-emotional overly-simplified assumption about what actually killed them with no regard to co morbidities or other factors. The vax doesn’t cure obesity, old age, clogged arteries or diabetes or all the things that kill people.
The average age of “Covid”death is STILL 81. The average age of all-cause death is 81.
There are many varying stats out there but the one stat no one has debated is the 95-99 percentage survival rate even amongst the elderly.
But many perceive that statements of fear like Governor Cox’s continue to be used to exercise undo and unnecessary control.
Consider this statement:
“If they can make the entire world’s population wear masks in four months why can’t they make the entire world eat vegetables or exercise? If you can close businesses at will without a thought for anyone’s livelihood why not close the junk food producers or the porn industry? If junk food, alcohol, and cigarettes kill over 21 million people a year why are those items constantly available.” Jason Christoff
Don’t get me wrong, I am not for banning unhealthy things nor for forcing health on anyone. I’m not for force at all. The data shows the forced lockdowns did not help and they only caused more pain and damage. The data does not support that forced mask wearing helped either, but I did both. But I will not support people being forced to take an experimental vaccine that the VAERS report shows has caused some very serious side effects, including death, for a virus with a 95-99% recovery rate. Are all those people hurt by the vax only to be considered the collateral damage needed to fight the war on Covid? Are they merely the necessary sacrifices needed to be made on the altar of science for the greater good? I don’t think so. The math doesn’t add up for the risk/benefit ratio to justify this.
And here is what appears to be another Utah vaccine tragedy. And yet this woman has the humility to say that the vaccine still has its purpose.
But she wants people to be informed.
My wife and I (mid-fifties) were both vaccinated (Moderna) earlier this year. We’re both high risk, and she works in a medical-related field so got an appointment early through work. Reaction: I was sick – not hospital-worthy, but if I haven’t been working remote they wouldn’t have let me into the office – for more than two weeks after each dose. I’ve read that for those who had previously had COVID (I suspect I caught it in Feb 2020) the reaction to the vaccine was more severe and long-lasting. My wife was down for about a day after the second shot; the first gave her no side effects. (She did have a stroke a few months later; I’m not inclined to believe the two are related, but have had moments of doubt.)
I don’t regret getting vaccinated, but I’m honest about my experience with it when asked. I respect peoples’ choices, either way. One cousin waited for a non mRNA vaccine to be cleared for use. I have some relatives who are rabidly pro-vaccine, others who are rabidly anti, but most fall between the poles – cautious but hopeful.
I haven’t seen any tension at church (Utah) over mask choice; some wear them, some don’t. Same with vaccines. In public I’ve been stink-eyed by some for wearing a mask, and from others for going maskless after I was vaccinated.
My motto is, whatever the health risks of COVID, the morel lasting peril is the growing and virulent Jerk Virus. Whatever you believe about the vaccine or masks, the prophet’s counsel is universal to Be Kind. if their choice concerns you, keep your distance and let them be wrong. Anxiety is high enough as it is and we don’t know what each other has been through. I’ve been worried for a while about the apparent self-sorting into latter-day camps of Shiz and Coriantumr. We’ve seen battles on city streets, even in Provo. We can and must disagree civilly; contention kills.
This site tracks Covid vaccine adverse reactions. The numbers are much higher than what has been reported. Biden told OSHA to not report adverse reactions. And the CDC didn’t want to track adverse reactions or have adverse reactions reported until the demands and outcry became too great. So who knows who many vaccine adverse reactions have not been reported.
What is not considered is…..how many people actually died FROM COVID-19 and how many people died WITH Covid-19. We now know that Covid deaths were inflated by every town, city, state in order to receive more federal money.
Also how many people died from lack of medical treatment from other medical diseases and issues because testing facilities, treatment facilities, and hospitals shut down.
How many die from Influenza A and B and from pneumonia every year.
I am one whose medical treatment for cancer was delayed. The cancer progressed rapidly. I will not forget who did this to the country and why…. local, state and national.
I’m not the only one.
Read Fauci’s emails. Very enlightening.
Confirms what many many many people had said since this shite show started.
One more thing
I never wore a mask. Masks don’t stop viruses…..any virus. To stop from getting a virus one must wear a Haz Mat suit constantly. I never got Covid nor anyone in my family. Everyone I work with wore masks and everyone got Covid. Masks do nothing but give a false sense of security. So the guard is let down and hand washing and disinfecting stops……the two most important things to do.
Many people wore masks under the nose. So why wear a mask if you wear it wrong. Everyone is constantly pulling the mask up and down. Dirty contaminated hands touching the face, getting the mask dirty and contaminated.
And now it is reported that 6 foot social distancing does nothing also.
“Clynick’s funeral was held just three days after a CDC advisory committee reported a “likely association” between the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and risk of myocarditis—inflammation of the heart—in young adolescents.
“Clinical presentation of myocarditis cases following vaccination has been distinct, occurring most often within one week after dose two, with chest pain as the most common presentation,” the advisory committee’s chair, Dr. Grace Lee, said.
And we wonder why there’s hesitation!