My frustration is mounting. Perhaps yours is as well.
Why do so many people still resist getting Covid vaccinations when the evidence against such a decision is so overwhelming? There have been theories that attribute Covid hesitancy to those who are less educated or to communities of color who have been previously burned by duplicitous governmental practices. But these factors are diminishing while one societal divide remains constant or even increasing: the partisan divide.
As David Leonhardt points out in The New York Times, “The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state.”
Using a series of revealing charts (only one of which is featured here), Leonhardt tracks the relationship between pro-Trump, Republican states, vaccination rates and Covid infections. Almost one-third of the American electorate contends that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump, despite any evidence and a rash of losses in the courts. Similarly, there are those who refuse to get vaccinated, despite compelling evidence that vaccinations keep both the individual and the surrounding community safe.
I hear the argument about wanting control over one’s own body; but anyone who has attended public schools or enrolls in the armed services (or who enjoys energy drinks) has given up this principle (and ask women in Texas who seek an abortion if their right to choose has been threatened by the very same legislators who support vaccine hesitancy). Where is the consistency?
But the real frustration for me is when the vaccine hesitant say, “I am—fill in the blank—young, healthy, have antibodies, etc. and so I’m safe. I don’t need to be vaccinated.” We do not yet know the level of contagion this virus propels. This singularly selfish attitude limits the possibility for herd immunity, keeping the rest of us from knowing with confidence that neither I, nor my children, nor my aging parents, nor my immunocompromised loved ones will not become infected.
I have tried to be tolerant and patient. But my tolerance has worn thin and my patience has run out. So, how do we change hearts and minds in this debate? This becomes intensely personal when we apply the question to those who are closest to us—and I would be willing to wager that we all are close to someone who fits this category.
We must have the courage to confront (lovingly and sensitively, yes—but also firmly) those in our circles of family and friends whom we know are unvaccinated and remind them how their decision impacts others. We must have these conversations even when they are uncomfortable. We can stake out our intent by refusing to join them in family, business or social gatherings where they, as non-vaccinated persons, are present.
This is not easy—especially among loved ones or close business associates. Such actions risk further polarizing our already divided society. But how else do we end this relentless pandemic? Those who have made decisions with a clear disregard for public health and the safety of their loved ones must be held accountable for their continued selfish behavior. And we, who have been enablers of such decisions out of fear of being disagreeable need to respond to the moment with courage and conviction and proclaim that is time—long past time—to let the evidence rule and call out this behavior for the self-centeredness that it implies.