Mocking the Deaths of the Unvaccinated By Chris Knight (Florida)
The Covid vaxxed sometimes get rather cocky, feeling immortal as one lawyer, double vaxxed put it to me, before going down with Covid. Then there are those who are saying that the unvaccinated are getting their just deserts, as discussed below. But what goes around, comes around. The vaxxed may face a future of illness from adverse effects, as well as Covid and all its varieties, more flavours than ice-cream. Who will be laughing then? Not the unvaxxed who will be infinitely merciful, of course, especially with scarce medical resources.
“In Orange County, California, Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby recently passed away due to complications from COVID. Ernby had been a vocal critic of government vaccination mandates and was herself unvaccinated according to her family and friends. This led to the predictable, ghoulish end-zone dancing on social media that we regularly hear from supporters of mandates and immunity passports. While most people in the media are compassionate enough (or at least politically sensible enough) to condemn such callous behavior, the Los Angeles times managed to find someone to take the opposite position. Michael Hitzik penned a column which is currently titled, “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary.”
How should we react to the deaths of the unvaccinated?
On the one hand, a hallmark of civilized thought is the sense that every life is precious.
On the other, those who have deliberately flouted sober medical advice by refusing a vaccine known to reduce the risk of serious disease from the virus, including the risk to others, and end up in the hospital or the grave can be viewed as receiving their just deserts.
The column goes on at length to discuss how evil the unvaccinated are, along with those who are themselves vaccinated but oppose vaccination mandates. All of these people are lumped into the same category of “receiving their just desserts” if they succumb to the disease. They are selfish and present a danger to everyone else. To support this contention, the author points to Reddit communities and other websites specifically set up to mock the recently deceased.
The reason that, in the opening paragraph, I pointed out the “current” title of Hitzik’s column is that it has changed at least twice since the original submission. At the time of this writing, the title suggests that mocking anti-vaxxers “may be necessary.” The original column that I saved last simply read, “- but necessary.” You can see that version in the author’s tweet inserted above. That one wasn’t even the worst of the lot, however. If you look at the embedded URL you can see the original title, which read, “Why shouldn’t we dance on the graves of anti-vaxxers?”
What we’re witnessing here is only the latest, though perhaps an over-the-top example of a phenomenon we’ve been warning about and tracking from the start of the pandemic. The government (at most levels) has done an amazing job of dividing the nation yet again into two warring camps. It’s not enough to simply hold a public debate over the legal and practical ramifications of mandates for vaccines and face masks. It has to be all-out warfare. The opposing side can’t simply be seen as having a differing opinion or even as being incorrect. They have to be portrayed as genuinely evil and seeking the destruction of society.
Even if this divisiveness leads to public figures such as Hitzik violating one of the longest-standing social covenants (speaking ill of the dead when their body is barely cold), excuses can be found to justify their actions. The author clearly had no trouble mounting a defense.
And, of course, all of these arguments are being constructed on a foundation created from fallacies. The total number of people who have died from COVID since the beginning of the pandemic is a tragedy, just as all significant losses of life are. But Kelly Ernby was an outlier in the trends we have observed. According to another, considerably more charitable article published in the same paper several days earlier, Ernby was 46 years old and considered to be in otherwise good health. She was not in one of the high-risk demographic groups when it comes to COVID and people in her situation rarely die or even require intensive hospital care. Most survive and develop their own antibodies as a result. But there are always exceptions to every rule and Kelly Ernby was apparently one of them.”
However, some are now boldly proclaiming their unvaxxed status:
“Back in September I got Covid, and got it bad. For two weeks I was too sick to work or do much of anything except sit on the couch or lie down in bed. The initial (and very intense) flu-like symptoms turned into a bad cough, which slowly faded into persistent fatigue and what many have described as a kind of Covid “brain fog.” It was nearly a month before I had recovered enough to work out and resume a normal schedule.
For all that, though, I was relieved. Having contracted Covid and recovered from what was by no means a mild case, I knew that my natural immunity conferred longer lasting and stronger protection against future infection and illness than the immunity I could get from any of the Covid vaccines.
But I was also relieved because it irrevocably settled a question for me: No matter what else happens in this pandemic, I’m never going to get a Covid vaccine. Ever. I’m one of the “unvaccinated,” and I’m going to stay that way.
A lot of people, upon hearing this, won’t want to listen to anything else I have to say. They’ll conclude I’m a crank and a conspiracy theorist — or just a blithering idiot. The unvaccinated, for too many Americans, are nothing more than selfish rabble whose continued intransigence is, at best, needlessly putting the vulnerable at risk and, at worst, outright killing people.
If anyone is to blame for the terrible toll of Covid, their thinking goes, it’s people like me, who are perpetuating what President Biden has repeatedly called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” We’re so awful, according to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, that although it might be ghoulish to mock us if we die of Covid, it’s necessary. After all, we’re just getting what we deserve.
Yet at least 40 percent of the country remains unvaccinated. You can’t just write off 130 million Americans as conspiracy theory-addled rubes, or decide it’s okay to dance on their graves if they die of Covid. That’s a recipe for a poisoned public discourse, and it’s fundamentally un-American.
Besides, one thing the omicron variant has made clear is that we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, at least for a while. So it’s time for the vaccinated to try to understand the motivations of the unvaccinated, and learn to live with them, too, instead of incessantly scapegoating and demonizing them.
Why I Chose Not To Get A Vaccine — And Don’t Regret It
Like millions of other Americans, I chose not to get a Covid vaccine for a variety of reasons. Before I caught Covid, I knew that my age, fitness level, and medical history all put me in a very low-risk category for severe illness or hospitalization.
I also knew that, because the Covid vaccines have only been around for about a year, we don’t have any data on their long-term effects — but we do know about some of the risks they pose, especially to young people. In short, I concluded that the unknown risks of taking the vaccine were, in my case, greater than the known risks of catching Covid. That risk-benefit analysis will be different for everyone, but everyone needs to do it and come to his or her own decision.
Another factor for me was the contradictory and ever-shifting messaging about masks and lockdowns throughout 2020 that led me to question the honesty and competence of our public health experts and the pharmaceutical industrial complex. When the vaccines came out, the credibility of our experts was already in serious jeopardy. Things have since gotten much worse.
After I recovered from Covid, I was even more confident in my decision not to get a vaccine. Like the vast majority of healthy Americans who survive Covid, I gained natural antibodies that conferred a level of protection from future infection I otherwise couldn’t get, not even with two doses of the vaccine and a booster shot.
Here, too, the experts’ unwillingness to discuss or even acknowledge the existence of natural immunity made me deeply suspicious. Some 60 million Americans have now contracted Covid. Fewer than a million have died from it. That means, at a minimum, tens of millions of Americans have some level of natural immunity. Why isn’t that part of the conversation? Why doesn’t that seem to factor into any policy decisions, especially drastic ones that affect people’s livelihoods, like employer vaccine mandates?
Now we have the omicron variant, and everything we’ve learned about it thus far has confirmed my decision, along with tens of millions of other Americans, not to get vaccinated. It turns out Covid vaccines are not very effective against omicron, and whatever protection they do offer seems to drop sharply as vaccine-generated antibodies wane. Case numbers worldwide right now are at record levels, despite mass vaccination efforts across the globe and ever-increasing numbers of the vaccinated.
Indeed, omicron is now tearing through countries that have vaccination rates of 90 percent or more. The data so far suggest the best protection against omicron isn’t vaccination at all, but natural immunity from a previous infection.
One study in Qatar found that previous infection offered about 90 percent protection from symptomatic reinfection by earlier strains of Covid, and about 60 percent protection against reinfection from omicron. That’s far higher than the 37 percent effectiveness against omicron from two doses of an mRNA vaccine and a booster shot, according to a separate study in Ontario.
I hesitate, though, even to cite studies to support my argument, because in online Covid-world anyone can dig up counterfactual data or some other study (however shoddy or underpowered) to dispute any assertion about vaccine efficacy. As Cory Zue wrote in a long blog post last week, one of the problems with our Covid discourse right now is that science and data about the vaccines are “being used to affirm our previously-held beliefs, rather than help us see truth.”
And the truth is, every one of us has to make our own decision about the Covid vaccine, about what’s right for us and our families, assessing the risks and rewards for ourselves.
But whatever one believes about the vaccine, it’s getting hard now to maintain the position that the “way out” of the pandemic is through mass vaccination. In fact, mass vaccination might even prolong the pandemic, depending on how future variants react to fully-vaxxed immune systems that have had multiple booster shots in a relatively short timeframe.
If you want to get a vaccine and multiple booster shots, go ahead. That’s your decision. But I’ll never do it, especially now that I’ve had Covid. There are tens of millions of Americans like me, and we’re never going to change our minds. That’s something the rest of the country, at this point, is just going to have to accept.”