The anti-vaxxer death wish for the community

August 12, 2021 3:53 am

A visualization based on the structural analysist of the SARS-COV-2 virus (Photo courtesy of ISO.FORM LLC | CC-BY-4.0)

If I were to say, “I hope you get COVID and die,” such a greeting may get my teeth and face rearranged by whomever I uttered those words to; in Montana, those may be my last (fighting) words.

Even writing such a phrase on electronic paper causes me to cringe. It’s cruel, mean, spiteful, shocking and wholly lacking compassion. And yet for many leaders and pundits who are peddling cruel conspiracy theories about the dangers of vaccine, or – at this point – even showing the slightest hesitation about vaccines –  they’re essentially wishing death upon those who remain unprotected by the COVID-19 vaccines.

As a boss of mine used to quip, “It’s like giving someone the middle finger under the table.”

But is a death wish made any kinder by dressing it up in some insincere platitudes about “experimental vaccine status” or “personal responsibility?”

Urging people not to get the vaccine isn’t just a death wish for an individual, it’s a possible death sentence for the community, including my children whom I would have vaccinated if I only could.

We know that 99 percent of the people who are dying from COVID-19 are not vaccinated. And without herd immunity brought about by incredibly safe vaccines, your chances of catching it are likely eventual. And with the more deadly delta variant, your chances of death are even greater. Those who are not doing everything to get people vaccinated are all but assuring someone out there – who knows, maybe your spouse, or maybe your kids – will get COVID, and because COVID is deadly, someone is going to die.

In Montana, though, it’s even worse as businesses face a bunch of unenviable options, made possible by the 2021 Legislature. It’s now illegal to require proof of vaccinations, even in private businesses which are open to the public. Business owners can require masks, but it’s masks for everyone – probably not a bad idea, based on the Centers for Disease Control’s new guidance. With few exceptions, employers cannot require vaccines of any kind without facing a lawsuit and potential violation of human rights.

Yes, your right to infect the community trumps (seems like an appropriate verb) the safety and well being of your neighbors.

As Montana lawmakers hurried through House Bill 702, which essentially bans proof of vaccination for many things far more terrible than COVID-19, the same party which prizes the sanctity of small business and property rights took control of what happens in businesses, stores and shops away from business owners.

For a state where “Posted: Private Property” signs are more common than Starbucks, we sure have a funny way of letting owners decide what goes on in their property.

This whole debate can’t be about your right to determine your own healthcare, because lawmakers also passed a volley of bills aimed at curtailing women’s reproductive rights and (get ready for this irony): Lawmakers also recoiled at the idea of physician-assisted euthanasia during the same session.

How is it OK to promote the freedom of choice when it comes to something as simple as COVID-19 and yet, for a person struggling with the terminal, debilitating and, in some cases, dehumanizing aspects of Alzheimer’s, cancer or even Parkinson’s, it’s an aberration?

This can’t be about freedoms either because there are too many instances where no one bats an eye about some sort of community-preserving regulations that limit freedom.

I don’t have the choice of how I want to drive or what clothes I wear into a bank. Both of those things are regulated.

Last week, when I traveled on an airplane, masking (that covered both the mouth and nose) was a federal requirement. Everyone seemed to understand, and no one was standing near the Cinnabon singing “We Shall Overcome.”

I traveled to Oregon where filling up one’s gas tank is prohibited. And as obviously ridiculous as that law seems to a Montanan, except when the temperature falls to 20 degrees below zero, having someone fill your tank for the princely sum of $1.50 more per gallon is the deal you accept to have certain privileges like a car and gasoline. And yet, despite Oregon’s (and New Jersey’s) peculiar customs, everyone seemed pretty free to me.

To believe that the COVID-19 vaccines are anything short of miraculous and that our economy has been spared a much greater pain should be something we’re relishing rather than relinquishing.

To believe that this is something more sinister a la a federal conspiracy of mind control or a warm-up drill for tyranny, like the followers of Jimmy Jones taking the “Kool-Aid” medicine, is to imagine a pretty unsophisticated government.  

Or maybe – just maybe – politicians are using the COVID-19 vaccine as a new wedge issue to galvanize the Republican Party. What an amazingly twisted logic: Your loyalty to the party is proven by your steadfast refusal to get a life-saving vaccine.

For being pro-life, this anti-vaxx thing sure seems strange.

It’s also odd that people are putting more trust in politics than science. I don’t go to a Republican for heart surgery and a Democrat for a sore throat. Sounds funny, but COVID-19 vaccines aren’t more effective for one party than another. And COVID isn’t really interested in my political beliefs.

Listening to politicians debate vaccines is like listening to orthopedic surgeons discuss immigration reform.

Let’s leave science up to the scientists.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.