I happen to believe vaccines are a good idea. That’s why I got one.

Everyone in my family is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Furthermore, a lot of what I hear as justification for not getting vaccinated is nothing more than kooky talk, based neither in fact nor reality — from the DNA manipulation conspiracy theory to microchip implantation paranoia.

By the way, if the government wants to shoot a chip into me so I can be tracked, go right ahead. You’re likely to be very disappointed by what my day-to-day routine reveals.

However, legitimate skepticism – and no, not all skepticism is fueled by whacky conspiracy theories — about vaccines is understandable, given the conflicting information we’ve received since the beginning of the pandemic. But anyone who dares express concern about the current policy is labeled a heretic.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago in which I questioned the timing of booster vaccines which, as it turns out, was also questioned by infectious diseases experts and officials at the Food and Drug Administration, two of whom have since resigned. A reader emailed and insisted that by merely raising the issue, I will be responsible for future COVID deaths among the unvaccinated.

This sort of either-you-agree-with-me-or-you’re-a-murderer method of debate makes it a bit difficult to have a reasonable discussion. Worse, it only makes skeptics more skeptical. True, there’s a certain portion of the population that is so dug in at this point that nothing anyone says or any evidence presented will change hearts and minds. But there are others who are legitimately conflicted and confused, due in no small part to what our public servants, elected officials and media have been telling them.

In his mostly awful and strangely angry speech on vaccine mandates last week, President Biden said, “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.” He had just said that vaccinated Americans face no health risk from the virus. It’s this kind of muddled messaging that only gives more ammunition to the resistant. If I’m one of the 80 million unvaccinated Americans listening to the president, I’m less motivated to run out and get vaccinated than I was before he started talking.

A pandemic is a fluid situation. Most reasonable people understand that guidelines and recommendations can change based on updated information. But if the goal is really to motivate unvaccinated Americans to get a least one dose of a vaccine, portraying vaccine skeptics as potential killers or misguided morons is a curious strategy. And the media isn’t helping.

Last week, Rolling Stone ran with, and other left-leaning media outlets shared, a story about Oklahoma hospitals being overrun by patients who overdosed on ivermectin, a drug commonly used to treat parasites in animals and, in some cases, in humans, according to the FDA. The drug has also been advocated by vaccine skeptics as a COVID treatment. The problem with the story, which was originally reported by KFOR TV in Oklahoma, is it wasn’t true. The hospitals themselves refuted the report.

A story such as this only sees the light of day because it wasn’t properly vetted and worse, because those who reported and shared it were predisposed to assume it was — and wanted it to be — true.

Just this week, CNN host Don Lemon called unvaccinated people “stupid” and called on the vaccinated to “start shaming them.”

Americans generally distrust politicians and the media isn’t far behind. Again, if the goal is to get the unvaccinated to join the rest of us, bogus news stories, divisive rhetoric and “hot takes” from bloviating pundits aren’t going to cut it.

Human experience tells us that attempting to legislate behavior only makes the reluctant less likely to cooperate. If you doubt this, try telling your teenage daughter she should dump her boyfriend. You’ll be responsible for the most star-crossed love story since Edward the VIII first asked Wallis Simpson to join him for tea and scones.

About 74% of the U.S. population over 12 years of age has received at least one dose of COVID vaccine. Most experts agree that we need to get to around 80% to have some form of herd immunity.

If we’re going to get there anytime soon, more education and less scolding would be a good start. And we would do well to remember the “We’re all in this together” pandemic mantra that was popular once upon a time. It seems to me a much better approach than “Get on board or else.”

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky.

You can reach him at manieri2@gmail.com.

(4) comments


Agreed.. Threats, intimidation, and coercion aren't effective strategies for those hesitant to receive an experimental, untested injection. You've made your choice for you and your family, congratulations. Why not just leave the rest of the population to make their choice as well?

Horse Rider

It's a falsehood that the three COVID vaccines are "experimental, untested." It was true for the first volunteers in the field trials but those who received the vaccines, after they were granted emergency approval, were tracked carefully. That's how blood clots and heart inflammation were discovered. (They occurred no more frequently than would be expected in the unvaccinated population or among COVID patients.)

My wife and I are in our seventies and I am fighting prostate cancer. When the pandemic began last year, we pretty much become hermits because, before vaccines, that was the only effective defense. The disease is transmitted from infected persons to uninfected ones by exhaled breath. You can't catch it from people you never meet. I calculated, using the fraction of COVID deaths suffered by people over sixty five and the age distribution of the Arizona population, that the disease was thirty times more deadly for us than for the young.

As soon as vaccines became available, we got ours which happened to be Johnson and Johnson. Two weeks later, we felt like we had our lives back. We stopped wearing masks, got haircuts for the first time in a year, got our vehicles serviced, resumed patronizing restaurants and attended concerts by the symphony orchestra. Then came the Delta variant. My doctor advised resumption of mask wearing in public because infections were increasing in Show Low and surrounding communities. Since we are vaccinated, we haven't regressed to full hermit status but we have given up restaurant meals and wear masks indoors in public. There is a symphony concert this weekend that we will not attend. Sharing an auditorium with several hundred people, most without masks and many unvaccinated, is too dangerous.

Summit Health reported eighteen COVID patients, sixteen of whom were unvaccinated. There's a lesson in that for those willing to learn from it.

My principal feeling about those who won't take COVID seriously enough to get vaccinated is resentment because of the risks they force on my wife and me and what we must do without to mitigate those risks. I think of them as comparable to people who drive drunk or handle firearms carelessly.


“If we’re going to get there anytime soon, more education and less scolding would be a good start. And we would do well to remember the ‘We’re all in this together’ pandemic mantra that was popular once upon a time.” O.K., we tried that and it failed. What’s next?

The COVID vaccines are not experimental. They have full approval from the FDA. Neither are they untested. Science currently has the resulting data from hundreds of millions of shots as the informational test bed for drawing valid conclusions about the vaccines. They are mainline treatments, and they are massively tested.

There is a core population in the USA who are suspicious, paranoid, distrustful and resentful of nearly everything that elected representatives try to do, even when such governmental action is fully informed by the facts and redounds to our national security imperatives. I agree that there is no call for them to be labeled with any pejorative terms. That facts are that virtually all the disabilities and deaths from COVID are now concentrated among those who are unvaccinated, for whatever reason. In that aspect, this problem would be sort of self-eliminating by the continued deaths of the unvaccinated. Unfortunately, those parties are causing enormous costs to everyone, over stressing our health care resources, leaving a trail of grief and tears behind and providing a legacy of unknown long-term disabilities which will haunt us all for decades.

The issue before us, then, is not to call the unvaccinated stupid (some actually fear the vaccine) but to inaugurate public policy which is informed by science rather than myths. Since there is no amount of education or information which will move most of the unvaccinated to cooperate, we are left with no choice but to employ the constitutional (already tested at the SCOTUS level) police power of government and mandate vaccinations, to stop the pandemic in its tracks. There is no lawful prerogative for personal decision making in this regard.

It simply won’t do for a couple of dissidents to stand up in the prow of the lifeboat and holler “Hey, you guys back there – bail faster – your end of the boat is sinking.”


Horse Rider: Excellent. In the matter of triage, it is my opinion that all unvaccinated COVID persons be placed at the very end of the queue and be seen only when all vaccinated people and those who have been injured or have other illnesses have been treated. That also applies to the the provision for medications for the unvaccinated.

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