John Colson: Put vaccine hesitancy in a box and ignore it
Hit & Run
OK, let’s get the elephant off the couch and out of the room — I do not have COVID-19, at least according to the testing facility in Carbondale that Aug. 2 administered what I think was my seventh or eighth COVID test since the pandemic first burst on our national scene in early 2020.
I also happen to be fully vaccinated (two Pfizer shots in February and March), which I offer as evidence that I am complying with the orders and advisories issued by federal, state and local health officials, something that sadly cannot be said of a great many of my fellow citizens in this benighted land.
Anyway, back to my most recent test, which was necessitated by exposure to the virus via a dear friend who visited us the week after Mountain Fair and arrived here with symptoms consistent with COVID, but also the kind of symptoms he always develops when he travels to Colorado — stuffed up sinuses, lungs and other signs. But he also had been fully vaccinated, which prompted the rest of us to drop our guard and get up close and personal.
Our friend (let’s call him Local Patient Zero, or LPZ) was here to lead a group of 15 people in scattering the ashes of his late husband, who spent the past four decades or so bouncing between Carbondale and San Francisco as often as allowed by his busy work schedule and who was a well-loved erstwhile valley resident.
Out of that group of mourners, it turns out, only one man, who received Moderna vaccines earlier this year, came down with COVID, seemingly as a consequence of a one-day exposure to our mutual friend. Which is puzzling, in that my wife and I somehow dodged the viral bullet despite being in close proximity to LPZ for just over two days (he stayed at our house when he was here.)
One person who did not participate in the ash-scattering, but was on hand for an evening gathering later the same day, is not vaccinated but also did not catch the bug, as shown by a test administered on the same day as mine.
Again, go figure.
It appears that this virus does not follow any kind of reasonable path in its work but is unpredictably selective in picking out its victims.
In the days since our COVID scare first came up, I’ve been reading somewhat obsessively about the surge of COVID infections, hospitalization and deaths as a result of a mutation, known as the delta variant, first observed in India but now the dominant strain of the disease around the globe.
Above any other considerations, it now appears inarguable that the U.S., like the world at large, is “entrenched in another coronavirus surge,” and most of these new cases are happening among what I’ll call the unvaccinated horde.
I know, I know, in our small sample the virus took hold in two individuals who had been vaccinated, in what is known as “breakthrough” infections, but such cases are minuscule in number compared with the tens of thousands of cases involving those who, for whatever reasons, have avoided the vaccines.
That such cases are problematic on a national scale is, to put it mildly, a wicked understatement. Ongoing research indicates that “breakthrough” sufferers are just as contagious, at least, as the unvaccinated. This means that even though vaccinated infectees do not get very sick and typically do not need hospitalization, they can still pass the disease along to others.
And they are doing so, according to the health experts, in numbers that are not being very systematically studied and are relatively opaque to health policy types.
This has led to what one New York Times guest columnist called “COVID rage,” meaning anger among the vaccinated, directed against the unvaccinated, over what is perceived as a physical and political assault based on shadowy motives and biases.
The internet and newspaper letters pages are full of this rather specific rage, as the vaccinated embark on diatribes against the unvaccinated, accusing them of being dupes who uncritically swallow the lies and obfuscations of politically motivated, or at least power-seeking extremists eager to use the COVID pandemic to boost their private agendas.
Which, unfortunately, is providing further fuel for our ongoing culture wars as self-righteous blowhards of all stripes take increasingly vicious potshots at each other without even trying to come to grips with underlying causes or find ways to get out of this partisan mess.
Meanwhile, as a doctor friend working in a Pensacola, Florida, hospital reported to us recently, her hospital is filling up with renewed waves of COVID patients, 96% of whom are unvaccinated.
I also saw that a Texas Republican, a virulent (pun intended) anti-vaxxer, reportedly died very recently from COVID just a few days after ridiculing the national nervousness about the pandemic, a sad case of poetic justice if ever there was one.
I’m mystified by all this vaccine hesitancy, since it seems obvious to me that this is not a normal circumstance in any way, and any skepticism and suspicion of our health care system should be put in a box and ignored for the time being.
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the last 35 years I’ve been covering what we call the “salmon wars” in the Pacific Northwest, writing so many stories about salmon heading toward extinction that I’ve lost count.
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