Non-vaccinated playing COVID roulette, a game they’re sure to lose

Less than half of the U.S population and only 45 percent of the Utah population is fully vaccinated, despite shots being widely available and free. This raises some questions about individual rights versus the greater good. 

Do people have a right, by declining to be vaccinated, to put themselves and others at risk of lengthy hospitalization, long-haul symptoms and death? 

What about the cost of care? Whether covered by private health insurance, an Obamacare plan, Medicaid or Medicare, all of us help pay the enormous bills. Should health plans, public and private, be permitted to refuse payment of such claims for people who were not vaccinated? 

Are companies, healthcare organizations, city governments and even the executive branch of the federal government within their rights to require all employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment? 

Finally, free speech is a cherished right in America. But what about disinformation that can cost lives? Should social media censor conspiracy theories and other false information about coronavirus vaccine?

Alison Anderson:

This is an interesting question, I think.   

Let me state for the record that I’m so grateful that I’ve had the Covid vaccination, to be able to go to the store without feeling threatened by my fellow shoppers, to see my loved ones, and to have the assurance that although I may be exposed and even contract Covid, I will very likely have a mild case. (I acknowledge that the new variants may be more threatening.)

I know that vaccination rates in Sanpete County are low, and it worries me. The doctors in my family tell me that people who are unvaccinated will very likely get Covid; this means that personal friends may very well become gravely ill or die. And I am frankly tired of “masking up,” which I did diligently before I was vaccinated; it’s a little tough to be asked to do it now because nonvaccinated people need to be protected again.

I heard an interesting news story today—it involved a major retailer who has formulated a new policy. If vaccinated employees contract Covid, they will be given paid time off work as they recover and full medical coverage to treat their illness; if nonvaccinated employees get Covid, they will be fired. Whew!  That ends the discussion in a hurry, doesn’t it?

I don’t approve of government interference in private decisions—but I do think that businesses can set policies for their employees and even their customers to establish a safe workplace. People can choose not to work at or patronize these businesses.

What do you think, Steve?

Steve Clark’s response:

I agree that the decision is better made by private industry than by government. This is a thorny issue, but it shouldn’t be. It pits friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, liberal against conservative and even conservative against conservative. At the risk of offending some dear friends and family members, it’s become the playground of crackpots, radical conspiracy theorists and far out “rights” wackos who see microchips in splinters, and advocates of defiantly standing in the path of freight trains because it’s their “right” to do so.

Nearly lost in the shuffle is the fact that it’s also a basic moral issue which reveals one’s sense of compassion toward the well-being of others.

Anti-vaxxers contend that the public simply doesn’t have all the “facts.” Here’s the facts we do have. 

1. The virus kills, not everyone, thank God, but enough that it is a legitimate mortal threat.

2. The virus is indiscriminate. Young or old, rich or poor, black or white, all are at risk. 

3. The Covid long-hauler syndrome for many survivors is real.

4. The vaccine works. For every person who has a problem because of the vaccine, tens of millions have a positive outcome. 

5. With the Delta variant, if you are unvaccinated, you will get Covid. It’s not a question of if, but when. 

There are some who cannot be vaccinated for diagnosed medical reasons. Anyone else is essentially playing Covid Roulette. It’s a game they will inevitably lose, and others will likely suffer needlessly because of your irresponsibility. 

I know that ticks off some people I otherwise truly love and respect. Unfortunately, Alison, many of the anti-vaxxers are also anti-maskers, compounding the problem even further.

Alison’s response:

I think we agree that this virus has nothing to do with politics. If we want to put it behind us, many more Americans are going to have to trust the scientists and doctors about what to do to prevent the spread. As they learn more, the scientists may revise their recommendations, as they did on mask-wearing. 

We need to be more discriminating about which scientists we believe. We can generally trust science based on reputable studies and statistical data, but not on anecdotes gathered from social connections. 

I read this week in the national news about a Utah County couple, Russ and Mindy Greene. They’re a younger couple with four children. Mindy read a lot of information online about the vaccine that worried her and felt they’d be OK without it. Now Russ is hospitalized with Covid, on a ventilator, and Mindy is filled with regret, which she’s been sharing on social media.

Aaron Hartle, a family nurse practitioner and former triathlete, was sure that if he got Covid he’d recover quickly—he was young, fit, and had a “good set of lungs.”  But he was sent home from the hospital on oxygen after a tough fight with Covid and will have long-term lung problems. He’s now begging his patients to be vaccinated.

So should social media platforms shut down false information about Covid treatments and the vaccine?  I suspect they bear a responsibility to do so—much as they did after Jan. 6.

Steve’s second response:

I’m surprised that you mention Aaron Hartle. You didn’t know this, but he happens to be my niece’s husband. Our whole family lived through two terrible weeks of his hospitalization not knowing whether he was going to live or die. 

Until Covid, this medical professional with a prominent practice in Springville was a healthy, fortyish, physically fit runner and avid mountain climber who for some reason failed to get the vaccine.

I called him this morning and got an update. He’s been home for three weeks and is still on oxygen. He says he can barely climb his stairs at home without getting winded. 

These smoky days are very hard on him. He said he now suffers from myocarditis heart pain and expects the long-hauler effects to be with him for the foreseeable future. It’s difficult for him to carry on a long conversation. Oh, by the way, he now strongly advises that everyone who can get vaccinated.

My heart breaks for Aaron and his family. I’ve personally known five people, including two from Sanpete County, who have died from Covid. For every death, how many more are suffering long-term effects just like Aaron?