My Uncle Jerry passed recently.
He was in a rehab nursing home because he’d taken a fall. They had him in quarantine before they would let him join the rest of the population. He hated it. He thought he was being abandoned and would call my aunt multiple times a day.
Then came the day when he got his vaccine shot.
One day he’s calling my aunt multiple times a day, a couple of days later, he died.
I suspect the vaccine.
I happened to mention this on our social board at work and someone said to me…
“I want people to get vaccinated because even if the vaccine does kill 0.01% of the people who get it, it’s still a whole lot safer than covid itself.”
This completely threw me. It’s such a cruel thing to say to someone who just lost her uncle. I found myself hating her for it.
We have since resolved our issue, but it does bring up a lot of feelings and thoughts.
But my anger with her is not what I’m here to talk about. No, I want to unpack it at a deeper level.
The Urge to Vaccinate
While I’m certain that my co-worker, and many others, think that I’m a crazy person for being suspicious of the vaccine, I actually do understand the argument.
As of today, in the U.S:
28.2 Million have had Covid-19 (not counting those who didn’t get tested)
There have been 499,000 deaths in the U.S. so far.
With a population of 328.2 million, that means that at least 8.6% of the population has had Covid-19.
Of the people who have had Covid-19, 1.7% have died from it.
At the end of the day, the total death rate from Covid-19 in terms of the whole population is 0.15%
Note: It’s this set of statistics that people who think we’re blowing this all out of proportion point at.
According to the CDC, between Dec 14, 2020 and Jan 13, 2021:
13,794,904 doses have been given.
There were 6354 reported adverse effects.
640 of these, 9.2%, had side effects considered serious.
And 1.6%, 113, of that 9.2%, resulted in death.
Note: it’s this set of statistics that people who want us all to be vaccinated point out.
CDC Article: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7008e3.htm
Covid-19 is really scary. And the fact that it’s been evolving makes it an even bigger threat.
It makes sense to me to nip it in the bud. Get everyone vaccinated and stop the spread.
It makes sense to me to think of it in terms of statistics, that good of the whole outweighs the good of the few, or the one. Like my Uncle Jerry.
It makes sense to me that some people may feel passionate enough, that they are willing to be cruel to change other people’s minds.
To someone who is that passionate about getting everyone vaccinated, no matter what the cost, someone like me is very scary.
My goal is not to convince anyone of anything. We are all relatively intelligent beings. We can make up our own minds.
Many people are clamoring for the vaccine. They’re skipping the line sometimes. Heck, there are probably black-market suppliers out there selling fake vaccines.
I want everyone who wants a vaccine to have that vaccine as soon as possible.
My brother Rick took my Dad and Gary to get their vaccines just this Thursday. (This is very nerve wracking for me.)
My brother Kelly will get a vaccine when it’s his turn because he works with 4-H kids.
Most of my family will get the vaccine.
As for me, well, I’ll get it too. But I’ll wait at the end of the line. I am not so trusting.
My concern is that the social pressure will force others like us to get the vaccine before they’re ready.
Someone has to be at the end of the line. Why not the ones who are suspicious in the first place?
Think about it. Eventually we are all going to be vaccinated. They won’t let us fly unless we have our paper proving it. It’s going to happen. Covid-19 is too big a deal. It’s going to be regulated.
I plan on going to Hawaii one day. I’ll take the risk.
But the social pressure is enormous. When surrounded by people who are all pushing them to do something, people often go against their gut, and do what everyone else is doing.
I want that to stop.
The Asch Conformity Experiment
In a highly controversial experiment, that has been replicated in numerous ways, the effect of social pressure on conformity was tested.
I’m not going to go into depth into the experiment. I’ll include the link for your reading pleasure.
The question was: Will a person go against what they know to be true if they are in a group that is consistently choosing the wrong answer.
The experiment: Put a subject into a group of other subjects (actually collaborators) and, after showing the group 2 cards, one with a heavy line on it and the other with 3 heavy lines on it, each a different length. The lengths being obviously different. Then, going down the line, with the subject at the end. And asking which of the 3 lines was the same length as the line on the first card.
The results: 70% of all subjects would, at least once and usually more times, elect to choose what the group is choosing, even when they know it’s wrong. In the control group, where the collaborators were choosing the correct option, it was less than 1%.
I find the results of this study, and the others like it, disconcerting. It tells me that most people, when surrounded by people doing what they consider the wrong thing, will tend to also do the wrong thing.
In “Thresholds of Violence” from Malcolm Gladwell published in 2015 with The New Yorker, violence, and the willingness to conform was explained in the form of “thresholds”. The gist of it is that people have thresholds. Whether it’s school violence or riots, each person has a threshold as to when they will engage in the same behavior. Some have no threshold; they are willing to throw the stone. Other people have a threshold of 1, when the first stone is thrown, they throw as well. And it goes up. When you start getting into the 100s or 1000s, you end up with people doing things they would never do on their own.
This last year has been a series of people getting wound up and winding up others. People have become so fundamentalist about their beliefs that they justify all sorts of violence towards other people. Polarity has spread even wider. Many people don’t even see “the other side” as people anymore. And I have seen articles in both The New Yorker and the New York Times, both justifying the death of the elderly and showing fear that we are sliding into deep cruelty, especially in terms of the elderly.
But let’s go back to the Asch Conformity Experiment.
The Variation: It was the same experiment with one change, one of the collaborators chose the correct line.
The Results: The percentage went from 70% to 5% of people choosing to go with the majority.
One person, one voice, was enough to bring most of them back to themselves and choose the option they knew was correct.
When people become fundamentalist about their beliefs, there is often the propensity to try and shut down other viewpoints. After all, if you can shut people down, you will most likely get your way.
I believe in Free Speech. I am educated, very educated, maybe too educated. I have quite the imagination. I also have at least some sense of history and of psychology.
When I speak, it’s not to the fundamentalists. Fanatics aren’t thinking clearly. I’m talking to those who have reservations of their own. I want to be that one person in the group who is choosing the option they would.
Maybe you’re now ready to hear my reservations…
None of what I’m going to say is a statistic or a specific fact. They are all variables of the situation that may make someone resist getting the vaccine. The vaccine may well be what everyone says it is, and I hope they are right.
But I have doubts. And that’s why so many of us are at the end of the line.
The Poor and the Races
Looking at the statistics and coming up with conclusions is only valid if you take to be true that the world is a kind and loving place. That scientists and politicians have our best interests at heart.
The Poor and the Races, especially the Black community, know that this is not true.
People are not treated equally.
Marginalized people are often refused treatment or given poor treatment. Sometimes they get lured into experiments that are dangerous. And it wasn’t too long ago that there was a rash of doctors sterilizing poor women without their consent.
My own mother was murdered in a hospital. We didn’t have insurance. The doctor stupidly took us kids aside when the grandparents weren’t looking and explained the decision as a financial decision.
I’ve never trusted doctors since.
Add in human history and the tendency to treat marginalized, or unwanted, people as animals, even going to the extent that Nazi Germany went with both their experiments and the genocide, it can be very hard to trust.
Can it happen again?
Of course. It is happening now.
We are marginalizing the elderly, justifying it by saying they’re responsible for every bad thing that’s ever happened, like we aren’t all responsible.
Even before COVID-19, prisons have gone private and there is a lot of pressure for more bodies to fill them. Slavery is alive and well.
The world is not kind or loving.
Is it any wonder that any marginalized person might be suspicious of the vaccine?
The fundamentalists who are being so forceful with their opinions, without considering this variable, look to us as naïve at best, dangerous at worst.
I’m going to focus on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the moment.
First, it’s not really a vaccine. Vaccines contain at least a bit of the virus to stimulate the antibodies needed to protect a person.
It uses mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) which triggers the immune response. This is new territory in terms of immunization. If it works, we might never have to take in a virus again to be protected from it. It’s exciting.
Second, it is new. And not a lot of testing has been done with it. We don’t know the long-term effects.
The vaccine has been pushed out extremely fast. It usually takes years for something to be tested properly. But because we are in an emergency situation, and because people are desperate for the vaccine, it’s coming out early.
Both of these ideas prove nothing. But they are cause for concern.
We have a population problem. We’ve known it for a long time now. It’s been on the table in our government for years.
About a decade ago, there was this post going around in Crackbook. It was a copy of a memo that one senator wrote that another senator took a red pen to, correcting him. Everyone thought it was so funny that one senator would do that to another senator.
I looked at the memo itself. It was an impassioned response to a suggestion of how to solve the population problem. At the end of it, in red pen, it said “The question still remains, what do we do with all these people?”
I wish I could find that memo.
I have a friend who did his master’s thesis on reducing population. He said there are a few ways to take people out of the system: War, prison, welfare, genocide, and deportation.
I believe that “The Wall” and the deportations of, President Trump’s administration, were an effort to reduce population in the U.S.
War doesn’t work like it used to. Most of our soldiers come home now, many damaged.
Welfare is growing and is a pull on our resources. Did you know that people on welfare are not counted in terms of unemployment? Once you’re on welfare, you’re out of the system. Done.
Prison population is growing.
None of these are really working.
The largest segment of our society who are going to pull on the resources is the Boomers. They are retiring now and could possibly live 20-40 years after retirement. Many don’t have the resources for a long retirement. This is the reality.
Population control, by its very nature, lends itself to moral crisis’. Even in China, where they came up with the one child per couple, found a way to make bad choices when parents killed the girls to make room for a more valuable boy.
No one wants that kind of legacy, especially a President. But we had an unusual President the last four years. I don’t have to stretch to be concerned.
There are just too many variables for a lot of us to be comfortable with the vaccine. We have the right to be uncomfortable around it, and we have the right to make our own decisions.
Will the vaccine kill my dad? I don’t know.
Did my Uncle Jerry die of the vaccine? I don’t know. And I doubt they’re doing a lot of autopsies on the elderly, especially if they can explain it away.
I hope that it wasn’t the vaccine. I hope that this is going to help us move past this traumatic. I hope that when it all settles down, we’ll be positioned to move forward with our lives.
If you feel the need to get the vaccine, have at it. I won’t try and stop you.
But as for me, I’ll be last in line…