Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Conspiracy Theories, Antivaxxers, and Fence Sitters

Relatives in full PPE at a COVID funeral in India (Scroll)
So I got the call on Friday. It was a lengthy robocall by a frantic woman who sounded very Charedi (of the East Coast variety) screaming about the dangers of the COVID vaccines - desperately pleading to those of us in the religious community not to take them. She was absolutely convinced that taking these vaccines would seriously endanger our lives. 

In an almost rapid fire succession she cited statistics to substantiate her claim as well as citing prominent rabbinic personalities that agreed with her - and ‘medical experts’ who had  published their opposition to these vaccines. One reason for example being these vaccines were not really approved by the FDA because the long term effects could not be studied yet.  She correctly pointed out that the FDA approval was only for emergency use. 

But then with all sincerity she claimed that the whole thing is a conspiracy of big pharma for purposes of enriching themselves. And that the medical establishment and politicians are in cahoots with them because they are heavily invested with them. And stand to profit handsomely from the vaccines. 

She further claimed that as a result - a lot people were dying or getting seriously ill from these vaccines. Much more than the actual numbers being reported. They were purposely being underreported for financial reasons. 

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In some ways I felt sorry for this woman. She is a true believer crusading for  something she believes is life saving. I wonder what she thought about those of us that have already been fully vaccinated. (Which in my neighborhood here in Chicago is about 80% of the Orthodox Jewish community.) In her mind, are we all doomed?! 

Normally I don’t pay much attention to conspiracy theorists. But in this case the conspiracy theorists are promoting a delusion that could harm all of us. Not only the more vulnerable unvaccinated people among us. But  by slowing down (or even preventing) the ability to achieve the herd immunity that will enable to return to our normal lives.

I wish I could say that I am surprised at this kind of irrational thinking. Unfortunately I am not. I know some people here that are quite educated and highly intelligent who are either antivaxxers or are sitting on the fence to see what happens to those of us that have already been vaccinated. Thinking of us the subjects of a sort of massive clinical trial with respect to long term effects. 

Frankly I am more appalled by the selfishness of the fence sitters than I am at the deluded antivaxxers.. That the best health experts in the world are not only promoting the vaccines but are taking it themselves seems to have no impact on them. Nor does it matter to them that many millions of us have already been fully vaccinated.  

Lest anyone think that not getting vaccinated based on this 'wait and see attitude' is a good idea, all they have to do is look at what’s happening in India. They were doing pretty good for while until recently. But now there are massively more infections, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID  than in  any other country at any other time since the pandemic began! The vaccination rate in India is very low.

Those that might think ..well that’s over there – and we are over here where things are moving along swimmingly - think again. India is a country with one of the largest populations in the world. Right now they are experiencing so many daily infections and deaths that they are unable to control it. That means that the virus might have already been carried here by people traveling from India. 

And then there is this. The highly contagious UK variant of the virus is believed to be driving the numbers up in some states even over here. We have not licked this thing yet. And when the numbers are as high as they are in India the chances for more deadly variants mutating in which the current vaccines might be ineffective increases dramatically. 

This is a no brainer for me. Vaccinations are absolutely essential. The more people that get vaccinated, the more quickly we will be able to defeat this virus. If on the other hand we do not reach herd immunity (or at least something close to it) we might have to live through this all over again. The possibility of mutations where the current vaccines will not be effective is real. As are even more devastating results. 

The vaccines are safe and effective. That is the truth. 100s of millions of people (I among them) have gotten fully vaccinated with little to no after effects. The scientific data shows that the chances of those who have been fully vaccinated getting COVID is very low. Even lower are the chances of getting sick enough to be hospitalized or die. The numbers of people that have had bad reactions to the vaccine are statistically extremely low. Something like one or two in a million. 

On the other hand for the unvaccinated, the chances of getting COVID and getting seriously ill are much higher. This is not speculation. It is based on hard scientific data. Just look at India!  

Which is why I am so angry at the antivaxxers and even angrier at the fence sitters. Because a lot of people will die from COVID  because or their attitude.  Some of whom may be them. 

I feel sorry for the woman who made that robo call. She actually believes that her conspiracy theory is an undeniable and provable fact. And thinks she is trying to save the Frum Jewish world from an unspeakable catastrophe.  But she is wrong. Dead wrong.

My message to the anti-vaxxers is to get some therapy. And to the fence sitters it is this: You are being selfish. Stop being so worried. Get vaccinated. You will not die from it. But you may die if you don’t!