As thousands more of the country’s residents succumb to the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus, anti-vaccine resistance seems to harden or is bolstered with every specious counter-argument, especially by elected officials, and then mostly conservative Republicans. It’s almost as if the volume of resistance is being offered as an antidote.
When Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) finally received his vaccination in late July, he blamed resistance to inoculation on President Biden’s criticism of the former administration’s efforts to create a vaccine. More directly, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) chimed in that skeptics would not get their shots until the Biden administration acknowledged the efforts of the previous administration. Another GOP senator, Roger Marshall (R-KS), wagered that the pronouncements from the White House press secretary and Dr. Anthony Fauci caused 10,000 people to say they will never take the vaccine.
Upon announcing a campaign to “knock on doors” to encourage vaccinations, a Missouri representative and Senate candidate described that prospect as “KGB style” agents.
Upon announcing a campaign to “knock on doors” to encourage vaccinations, a Missouri representative and Senate candidate described that prospect as “KGB style” agents. Only a bit less incoherent, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently admitted that he wished he had not signed legislation banning mask mandates in his state.
Other GOP members of Congress have actively engaged in spreading misinformation about the virus and its variants. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA)’s Twitter privileges were suspended following posts declaring that COVID-19 was not dangerous unless a person was obese or over 65 years of age. For weeks, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been in a raging debate with Dr. Fauci, calling him a liar about the origins of the virus.
When opposition to reasonable health and safety recommendations involves children who are not voters, the responsibility of elected officials is even greater and their urging resistance for political reasons even more tragic and reprehensible.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has adopted the “live free and die” rule banning the authority of local jurisdictions from mandating masks in schools. For a political party that has for decades promoted local self-rule, such stubborn resistance in the face of a virulent disease is not only anti-science, it’s anti-common sense. When opposition to reasonable health and safety recommendations involves children who are not voters, the responsibility of elected officials is even greater and their urging resistance for political reasons even more tragic and reprehensible.
In another Florida/DeSantis development, a federal judge has issued an injunction against enforcing the state’s rule prohibiting “vaccination passports” to board cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) will continue this requirement. Naturally, DeSantis will appeal. At the same time, DeSantis has threatened to withhold teachers’ salaries to force schools to make masks optional.
The voices promoting resistance have themselves become virulent. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) attacked a local school board for voting a mask mandate as “psychological child abuse,” characterizing proponents as “woke, liberal government officials … who think they are all-knowing and all-wise.” Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) echoed his colleague’s allegation of child abuse. Wisdom and knowledge among the silent GOP officials has itself morphed into its own variant: refusal to admit having been vaccinated for fear of “taking sides.”
Silence by elected officials for political cover might have been one strategy in the politicization of efforts to stem the effects of a disease that has taken the lives of over 625,000 residents and hospitalized hundreds of thousands more, causing near-fatal stress on a number of hospital systems. The impetus and motivation to oppose masks and vaccinations may never be reasonably explained, beyond the automatic instinct to oppose everything favored by Democrats. Political protest of this character is beyond irresponsible. The ballot box may be the final arbiter.
Underlying the silence and active protests is, at some measure, an attack on science, a kind of “no nothingness” redolent of a bygone political movement. However, it is not science that is recording the surging numbers of new cases due to the delta variant but the state agencies of many of the anti-vaxxer politicians. Mandates for masks or vaccines have been criticized by congressional members in the very states where the surges are skyrocketing, such as Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, and Alabama. The political facet of the silence is often cited where elected officials complain that mandates would backfire among conservative voters.
At the same time that some elected officials argue against mandates as invasions of freedom, they have not demanded that required polio or smallpox vaccinations necessary for school attendance be repealed. No matter what economic/governmental persuasion one expresses – conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, communist – few oppose auto seat belts or laws regarding red lights and stop signs. Don’t these infringe on our freedom?
At the same time that some elected officials argue against mandates as invasions of freedom, they have not demanded that required polio or smallpox vaccinations necessary for school attendance be repealed. No matter what economic/governmental persuasion one expresses – conservative, liberal, libertarian, socialist, communist – few oppose auto seat belts or laws regarding red lights and stop signs. There are some basic, essential mores (morals) in the social contract that create duty and responsibility for each to the other. Such behavior, whether silent passivity or active aggression, threatens all equally.
In Virginia, a group of health care workers at a regional hospital have mounted a strike against the employer’s requirement that all staff be vaccinated. Each may have a personal and private right to decline vaccination but neither each individual nor the hospital has a right to risk the health of patients. It is, of course, the right of the striking workers to refuse to work and risk their own financial conditions.
It is one thing for an individual to refuse a vaccination or mask for some personal reason, but entirely another for that individual to be in a crowd or even at a workplace without either. That individual has the choice of solitary isolation.