Ehud Gat: We get an “F” in societal responsibility
On August 20, Nevada County once again mandated that all people be masked indoors. By Sept. 30, any health-care employee not vaccinated with a second shot would be unable to work in health care anywhere in California, as mandated by the state.
If you think that sometime in the future, a mandate requiring all adults to be vaccinated against COVID-19 may be coming, that perhaps you wouldn’t be able to send your high schooler to Nevada Union or Bear River without proof of vaccination, you’re probably not wrong.
And the biggest travesty of it all is that these mandates are even needed. About 2,300 years ago, Aristotle wrote: “I have gained this from philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law.”
Clearly, our society can use some philosophy in its decision-making processes. Since COVID-19 first reared its head around the world, we have seen setbacks fueled by ignorance, selfishness, inability to weigh risks, and copious amounts of hypocrisy.
When my doctor recommended a tetanus shot following an unfortunate kitchen accident, I didn’t hesitate. He’s my doctor. I trust him. When he recommended the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, I didn’t hesitate, either. My trust in my doctor doesn’t end where some media personality, some YouTube video or some guy I spoke with begins. I trust my doctor with my life — no exaggeration.
Why do people who’d happily take Eliquis trust Pfizer to protect them against blood clots and strokes but don’t trust the same Pfizer when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine? Pfizer is the maker of Eliquis, as well as other commonly used medications like Dimetapp and Neosporin. So if you can trust your doctor and the manufacturer of your daily medication, why not vaccinate?
Is it that you think the vaccine is more dangerous than COVID-19? The side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be unpleasant but generally mild (at this point nearly 4.5 billion doses of vaccines have been given around the world). The rare bad reactions (there have been a few) are so few and far between that they are on par with any other vaccine out there.
On the other hand, the side effects of COVID-19 (which include, among others, long-lasting breathing issues, permanent disability and death) are frequent and common. It happens to the old. It happens to the young. It happens almost exclusively to the unvaccinated.
We all know that your risk of dying in a car crash is several orders of magnitude higher than the risk of dying in a plane crash — yet people are generally much more worried about airplanes. The big bombastic stories of plane crashes stay in our heads whereas the small, almost daily occurrences of car crashes rarely merit more than a second or two of brain processing time, unless there was something egregious, dramatic or particularly tragic about it.
Likewise, we are unable to grasp the difference between the risk of COVID-19 and the risk of the vaccine. We seem to be oblivious to 85 people who lost their lives to COVID-19 since the first case in Nevada County back in March 2020.
We seem to be unable to grasp the fact that more than a quarter of the beds in our small town hospital are taken by COVID-19 patients, nearly all of them unvaccinated.
This isn’t 1918 — HIPAA protects patient privacy, denying us the photogenic wake-up calls of COVID-19 wards in hospitals, of patients fighting for every gasp of air. We don’t see this pandemic in much the same way we don’t see car crashes. But if you heard the story about the one nurse who happened to have one of those rare reactions to the vaccine and spent several weeks in recovery because of it. … Now that’s a plane crash for you.
The mandates come because we fail to do the right things simply because they were the right things to do. There are precedents. There are precedents going back to the days of small pox, when states had to mandate vaccination because people feared the vaccine more than the pox (as crazy as that may sound).
The pandemic put our societal responsibility to the test. We scored a bright red “F.” The mandates are the consequence. May history be kind when it judges us.
Ehud Gat is an author and resident of Grass Valley.
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