When Will the Anti-Vaxxers Ever Stop?

by Perry Diaz

A new term has emerged in the dictionary: anti-vaxxer. It refers to people who disagree with the use of vaccines for various reasons.

While its purpose is to prevent people from contracting the deadly COVID-19 virus, there is a group of people who wouldn’t take it because it infringes on their god-given freedom.

They love their freedom so much that any move to get them vaccinated is rejected. But little do they know that vaccines are one of the safest and most effective health interventions for infectious diseases. Just shows their narrow-minded outlook on what freedom is.

Today, anti-vaxxers represent a minority of people – those who believe vaccines are unsafe and infringe on their human rights.

But with the advent of the Internet and social media platforms, the movement has spread quickly and massively. According to a recent report, around 31 million people follow anti-vaccine groups on Facebook.

People hold these views for a variety of reasons, which may originate from misinformation on social media sites.

Loyalty Test
Anti-vaxx sentiments are high among conservatives, evangelicals, and rural Americans, which are the traditional pro-Trump Americans. They believe that vaccine refusal is a statement of identity and a test of loyalty to Trump.

But wait a minute! Didn’t they know that Donald and Melania Trump were vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine at the White House in January?

Resistance is high in red states where pro-Trump legislatures enacted ambitious protections for people who refuse vaccines. They have forbidden business owners from asking for proof of vaccination from customers. They required cruise lines, sports stadiums, and bars to serve the unvaccinated.

In Montana, they have even forbidden hospitals to require healthcare workers to get vaccinated. It’s no wonder that the Delta variant continues to pose danger to the unvaccinated, which according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky accounts for 99.5% of the people who died from COVID-19 over the past six months.

This anti-vaxx resistance exacts a harsh cost from Trump loyalists. Deluded and deceived people are getting sick when they didn’t have to get sick, infecting their loved ones, being intubated and dying.

As these Trump loyalists harm themselves and expose everybody else to the virus, right-wing publications have run articles explaining the recalcitrance of the unvaccinated, which makes one wonder, what’s more important than preventing the spread of COVID-19 and killing Americans?

A case in point was what happened to Dick Farrel, a longtime conservative radio host and an ardent Trump supporter.

Based in West Palm Beach, Florida, Farrel was a vocal opponent of the COVID vaccine and vehement critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci. He went full blast espousing unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about election fraud earlier this year and questioned the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines developed during the Trump administration.

After calling Fauci a “power-tripping lying freak” and urging people not to get vaccinated as recently as June, Farrel changed his tune after contracting the virus himself. He was hospitalized about a month ago.

“COVID took one of my best friends!” his friend Amy Leigh Hair wrote on Facebook. “He is the reason I took the shot!  He texted me and told me to ‘Get it’; He told me that this virus is no joke and he said: ‘I wish I had gotten it!’”

Too late. He died Aug. 4 of complications from COVID-19. He was 65.

Uneducated Wealthy People
As one expert said, “It is ironic that in the anti-vaxx community, the very people who are denying protection to their children by foregoing vaccination are healthy and alive today because they, and possibly their parents, were vaccinated.”

Other than being pro-Trump, the families of these unvaccinated children are more likely to be wealthier on average, with annual incomes more than four times the poverty level. On average, they are non-Hispanic white, conservative, educated, and married couples covered by private health insurance.

These are successful Americans, but their college degrees weren’t enough to stop them from indulging in cult worship.

Far-right anti-vaxxers have falsely accused President Biden of trying to force all U.S. residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 whether they like it or not. Wrong!

Biden has only encouraged voluntary vaccination for the general population, although he stressed that the more Americans get vaccinated, the sooner the U.S. will be able to start getting back to normal.

But anti-vaxxers persist with their conspiracy theories.

Attorney Chris Truax, in an article published in the conservative website, The Bulwark, bluntly slammed anti-vaxxers for prolonging the pandemic and humorously attacked their views as “herp derp,” a term that Truax got from the animated comedy “South Park.” Truax noted that “herp derp”’ had become “an internal meme for something that is just complete nonsense.”

Truax also responded to Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, who said, “Forcing people to undertake a medical procedure is not the American way and is a clear civil rights violation no matter how proponents may seek to justify it.”

Truax said, “Anyone over the age of six who thinks about it for five seconds can tell you that what Cosme said is obviously false. Every school district in every state in America requires children to be vaccinated to attend public schools. But there is no question that states and school districts have the legal authority to demand that school children be vaccinated. So no, mandatory vaccinations are not a ‘civil rights violation.’”

Touché.Contrary to what anti-vaxxers claim, Truax wrote, “Vaccines work.” He was clearly fed up with anti-vaxxers who were keeping other Americans from getting back to normal.“Normal life is about six weeks away, and it will be perpetually six weeks away until we find a way to deal with the anti-vaxxers,” Truax wrote.

“By all means, continue the outreach. Persuade them to get their shots. But I’m not interested in the ‘reasons’ anti-vaxxers don’t ‘believe’ in vaccinations. It’s all herp derp.  All I’m interested in is results.”

Truax concluded his article by lamenting that “normal life” would remain elusive in the U.S. as long as Americans are buying into the “herp derp” promoted by anti-vaxxers.

When will the anti-vaxxers ever stop?

PERRY DIAZ is a writer, columnist and journalist who has been published in more than a dozen Filipino newspapers in five countries.

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