--SMALLPOX KILLS 12 MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE
--6,500 DIE OF POLIO IN THE US, 32,000 PARALYZED
--MEASLES DEATHS REACH 4.5 MILLION ACROSS THE GLOBE
Believe it or not, those imaginary headlines could accurately reflect reality today were it not for vaccines, one of the greatest achievements of science and medicine in humanity’s never-ending battle against disease.
Before you accuse me of being sensationalistic, smallpox, polio, and especially measles are all more contagious than the original version of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed more than 4 million people across the globe in little more than a year. Smallpox and polio have far higher mortality rates than COVID.
The fatality numbers in those headlines are based on death rates in peak years before vaccines were widely available. I then extrapolated the impacts of those diseases to a hypothetical world with the current population and no vaccines. The estimates do not take into consideration advances in modern medicine over the past half century, including anti-viral drugs.
I also avoided sensationalism by not including pictures of victims of all those terrible diseases. They were too disturbing, especially those of smallpox.
The reality is that only a few generations ago Americans lived in fear of death from smallpox, paralysis from polio, infertility from mumps, horrible birth defects from rubella, and misery, even death, from measles.
We worry about none of those today, thanks to vaccines, which have been a major factor in doubling life expectancy around the world since 1900 from about 31 to 72.
The bottom line is that much of modern life, especially in developed countries, depends on a vaccinated population. Would people want to ride in packed planes, buses, trains, and subways if they risked contracting smallpox, measles, or polio?
In a world where logic prevailed, the case would be closed and no debate would be necessary about the essential, lifesaving benefits of vaccines.
Logic, however, is too much to ask of many in the U.S. today. We are living in a “Bizarro World” where nothing is too outlandish.
According to a YouGovAmerica survey last month, 20% of Americans think the government is using the COVID-19 vaccine to put microchips inside us. Another 14% aren’t sure.
Some people in the Ozarks are reportedly wearing disguises when getting vaccinated. Why? Because they don’t want friends to know they’re doing something smart.
An anchor on Newsmax said: “I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally going against nature.” I’m sure he never takes any kind of medication or eats processed foods because, by his logic, those go against nature too. The network disavowed the comment.
Opposition to vaccines has also led to the strangest of bedfellows.
Here’s Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a left-winger who is one of the most prominent voices in the anti-vaccination movement, retweeting Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, a right-winger.
The irony is that in the past many conservatives rightfully slammed anti-vaxxers as conspiracy theorists and Hollywood elitists. Now, suddenly, people who are usually enemies are agreeing on this destructive anti-vaccine philosophy. The extremes on the left and right are again touching as they help COVID surge.
Of course, many of these anti-vaccine advocates won’t tell you if they and their families have been vaccinated. And they complain about new mask mandates and other restrictions which wouldn’t be needed if people had gotten their shots.
Mystifying as well is the attitude of former President Donald Trump, who deserves a lot of credit for Operation Warp Speed, which has likely saved many thousands of lives.
So why in the world did Trump initially hide that he had gotten vaccinated? Why did he not get his shot on camera, like the other former presidents? Why did it take him so long to emphatically and consistently endorse the vaccines?
Instead, Trump undercut one of his greatest accomplishments, something he could be bragging about. His tepid support for vaccinations has almost certainly led to unnecessary deaths. The largest group of unvaccinated people tends to be white, rural, evangelical Christian, and conservative. In other words, Trump’s base. In fact, almost all the counties with the lowest vaccination rates lean Republican.
However, those on the left have so gleefully focused on attacking Trump and his supporters about this that they seem to have missed another important reality: The second-largest group of the unvaccinated tends to be young, Black, Latino, and Democratic.
You’d think the Biden White House would have focused more on convincing those folks to get their shots than on attacking opponents who haven’t. After all, African Americans played a huge role in making President Biden’s campaign successful.
But the Biden administration has strangely dropped the ball amid a jumble of mixed messaging. Among a long list of missteps, he and his staff seem to have forgotten the lesson learned from George Bush’s premature declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq.
Biden’s speech on July 4th was titled “Celebrating Independence Day and Independence from COVID-19.” He didn’t completely declare victory over the virus, but even the New York Times suggested he was jumping the gun.
Biden has now imposed vaccine mandates for federal workers, something the White House initially rejected out of hand. The CDC has changed its guidance on masks more often than politicians flip flop.
This week, Biden made an emotional appeal for all Americans to get their shots. One can only hope it will resonate.
So too should the comments of Admiral Brett Giroir, Trump’s COVID czar: “The next variant is just around the corner if we do not all get vaccinated.”
If not, maybe the words of Dr. Brytney Cobia of Birmingham, Alabama, will. Amid all the heartbreak of the pandemic, her description of mortally ill patients stands out: "One of the last things they do before they're intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I'm sorry, but it's too late."
Please let me know what you think about this story in the comment section below or on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/antoniomoraTV1/. I’ll do my best to respond.
This opinion piece is the first in a series on COVID-19. Up next: vaccine mandates.