Who would have thought that anything–anything–could put together certain right-of-center groups in with some Blacks, Native Americans and Hispanics? The Proud Boys holding hands with La Raza.
COVID vaccines did just that.
That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.
An evolving quote from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” observes that, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” The original quote was “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Today it is not misery that brings these groups together, it is distrust of their government.
Depending upon the source, it looks like about a third of Americans are either hesitant to take the COVID vaccine, or have simply said they will refuse. Consensus among scientists declares that it will take 80%-85% of the population–or more–to get vaccinated before we can achieve herd immunity and defeat COVID. Houston, we have a problem.
Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the U.S., and not all that long ago. As the weather warmed up each year, panic over the polio virus intensified. Late summer was dubbed “polio season.” Public swimming pools were shut down. Movie theaters urged patrons not to sit too close together to avoid spreading the disease. (Does any of this sound familiar?) Insurance companies started selling polio insurance for newborns. The fear was well grounded. By the 1950s, polio had become one of the most serious communicable diseases among children in the United States.
The first major polio epidemic in the United States hit Vermont in 1894 with 132 cases. A larger outbreak struck New York City in 1916, with more than 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. As the number of polio cases grew, the paralytic disease changed the way Americans looked at public health and disability. (Again, any similarities?) In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. Hospitals set up special units with iron lung machines to keep polio victims alive. Rich kids as well as poor were left paralyzed. My last year at summer camp was extended because two of the young boys died of polio high up in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. I was too young to understand death, but I do remember the services for those campers. The images of the candles that we lit and floated on blocks of wood down the Delaware river will always be with me.
More famously, President Franklin Roosevelt suffered from polio. Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio 12 years before he became president. Roosevelt concealed the extent to which he suffered from the virus, but he acknowledged having it. His presidency put polio front and center on the national stage. In 1938, Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (polio) and spearheaded the March of Dimes for polio research. In 1946, President Harry Truman declared polio a threat to the United States and called on Americans to do everything possible to combat it. “The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”
“Polio was a fear of parents throughout this country,” says Dr. John L. Sever, recalling his childhood in Chicago. He later helped launch the Rotary International’s global drive against polio. Then in 1955, the U.S. began widespread vaccinations, virtually eliminating the virus.
Do we as a nation have the will to act in the same responsible way with COVID 19? The question does not center on ability: We developed an effective vaccine much faster this time, we have more money and far more capable distribution systems. The question is one of will: Do we have the will to act responsibly? In other words, can we get over ourselves and do the right thing?
All the evidence I have seen to date dramatically underscores the effectiveness of the vaccine. Both the Moderna and Pfizer 2-shot processes produce 95% immunity, and greatly reduce the severity of the cases in the remaining 5%. For example, the Maccabi Health Care Services study in Israel revealed that of the 416K who had received the second shot one week prior to being surveyed, only 254 contracted COVID, with zero “heavy” cases. In the 778K control group, 13K contracted COVID.
The articles that I have read claim that various ethnic groups, e.g., Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans are more hesitant than some because they distrust their government. They cite historical reasons for their distrust. Certain right-of-center groups will give the same reason, distrust of the government, for their refusal. These political groups cite more recent reasons for their distrust. My challenge to all of them is to look at the hard evidence instead of indulging in feelings of distrust. Both companies, Pfizer and Moderna, each had compelling evidence that their vaccines were both effective and safe. Add to that evidence the mounting results from the millions who have been vaccinated worldwide.
Where is the evidence to the contrary? There have been ethnic abuses, modest and massive, in the past. Government may very well be too large, and is overreaching in many areas today. How does any of that counter the mounting hard evidence about COVID vaccines that we all have in front of us? How does that relieve anyone of their responsibility to get vaccinated?
Paraphrasing President Truman, “The fight against COVID cannot be a local war; it must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:14
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.