A few issues ago, this column was devoted to the trials and tribulations of trying to score a Covid 19 vaccine. Demand was high, supply was low, and the struggle was real. I wrote then:
Remember that time you spent six hours chained to your computer, refreshing the screen over and over again, desperately seeking tickets to see your favorite band in concert, only to learn they’d sold out two minutes after going on sale? Then you heard there would be more tickets available at some later time, but nobody could say when? Then a friend of a friend told you about another website where tickets might also become available? And there were rumors about ways to “hack” yet another website? Now, expand that six-hour experience to five days, several “friends of friends,” and copious different screens that need constant refreshing. And imagine the “tickets” you seek are not for a concert, but for a return to normal – glorious! – life, after a year of… well, you know.
Now, less than two months later, it seems a new “vaccination frustration” has arisen. We’ve got plenty of vaccines on hand, but hardly anybody wants them. After an initial stampede to get the shots, a decided nonchalance – even reluctance – has set in.
An article about this phenomenon appeared on my Facebook newsfeed last week while I was home in Alabama visiting with my mom and sisters. The article bore the lengthy headline, “Covid 19 vaccine myths: These reasons for not getting a shot don’t hold up. In fact, they’ll set us back.”
The article was comprehensive and well-researched, debunking plenty of “myths” and quoting plenty of experts. It also explained why getting vaccinated is so crucial, even for younger people who are currently at low risk for serious Covid symptoms:
“The longer a virus circulates among unvaccinated people, the more opportunities it has to mutate. And if the mutations are significant, they can lead to more problematic variants – including some that could partially or fully escape vaccine protection . . . So the key to ending this pandemic isn’t just getting vaccinated. It’s getting vaccinated as soon as possible, before the virus mutates into variants that we can’t control with our current vaccines.”
The information in this article lined up pretty well with what I’d been reading elsewhere, in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and various other sources. When I finished the piece, I began reading the comments that followed it on CNN’s Facebook page. There were hundreds. Maybe thousands.
I’d say less than half the comments were positive – supporting the premise of the article and the vaccines in general – while the rest were skeptical or flat out hostile. At least half the people commenting had no intention of getting vaccinated anytime soon – if ever. Some didn’t believe they needed to. Others didn’t believe the vaccines were safe. Still others believed the vaccines were a nefarious agent of government control.
The terms “fake news,” “propaganda,” “mainstream media,” and “Big Pharma” came up a lot.
Remember, this article was posted on CNN’s Facebook page. You have to “like” that page in order to see its contents on your newsfeed. In other words, these were CNN’s “Facebook friends.” With friends like these . . .
It’s no secret that we have an enormous trust problem in this country. There are many reasons for it, and many culprits. I have my own pet culprit, of course. I have written a lot on this page about our national corporate media – not to be confused with local, family-owned media (perish the thought!) – and its complicity in creating and perpetuating this trust problem.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think anybody meant to turn us into a country of wary, skeptical, mutually-estranged haters living in separate virtual realities. But the love of money really is the root of all evil, and human beings really are tribal by nature. Big Media found a way to monetize our natural tribalism, and the rest is . . . well, history isn’t over yet, is it? What happens next is anybody’s guess. But I truly believe what we’re seeing now – this vaccination hesitancy on a massive scale – would not be happening in a country whose citizens trusted each other, their institutions, and especially their information providers.
As I mentioned above, I spent last week in my home state of Alabama, which as of this writing has the dubious honor of being the least vaccinated state in the country. My sister is a hospital administrator there, and she and her colleagues are at their collective wit’s end. They fear a repeat of last fall, when their ICU beds were filled to overflowing, staff was overworked and exhausted, and way too many people were dying.
My sisters and I discussed the “trust problem,” and how Trump conservatives are particularly reluctant to get the vaccine. The fact that they are simultaneously eager to credit Trump for its fast production and roll out tells me that their heels are not entirely dug in. They can be won over. They just need to hear from somebody they trust. To that end, Donald Trump could do a great service to our country by making a clear, forceful PSA encouraging people to get vaccinated. Let him take the credit, even! It’s partly his to take. I read somewhere that his advisors are urging him to speak out. By the time you read this, maybe he will have. Fingers crossed.
In hopes of encouraging our Alabama friends who might be on the fence, my sisters and I decided to add those little banners to our Facebook profile pics that read “I Got My Covid-19 Vaccine. We can do this!” I don’t know how it’s going for them, but I’ve been repeatedly accused of “virtue signaling.”
To my accusers I would only say this: I am not advertising my vaccination status to signal my virtue. This is straight-up peer pressure. I want y’all to get vaccinated, too, so our lives can get back to normal. Especially mine. Ain’t nothin’ virtuous about it. Pure self-interest.
There. Maybe that’ll do the trick.