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‘TIS A MYSTERY TO ME

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Those who read my column in our lovely local newspaper know that I have preached many a sermon from the altar of Truth on the benefits of getting vaccinated for Covid. You also know that my many efforts have been totally ineffective. 

First, I tried intimidation: “Hey, stupid people, get real; get vaccinated.” 

Bad style. This effort produced a few ugly emails for me and the editor. 

Next came honey and sugar: “Hey, boys and girls, getting vaccinated is a good thing. Be cool, go for it.” 

Totally ignored, but some folks did say my style had improved markedly, and they were glad I had “woke.” 

Then came the truth of medical science FACTS: Numerous pharmaceutical giants, and some not so big, produced, at remarkable speed, effective and safe vaccines that guaranteed life-saving protection against Covid. There are a few unvaccinated folks that probably would benefit from being convinced to get the shot, but alas this is a small cadre. 

The anti-vaxxers, the true non-believers, just ignored this or claimed it was “false news.” 

Then, I tried a totally different approach — economics. Illness, hospitalization, deaths are costing the American economy zillions of lost dollars, including the pocket books (and lives) of those who refuse “the jab.” 

Didn’t matter. Besides, who in their right minds understands “economics”? 

In desperation, I tried “morality and ethics.” If you did not get vaccinated, you might infect your family, friends, loved-ones, and the general public. Unquestionably, that is immoral behavior! 

But who cared? Certainly, not the true non-believers. 

Lastly, I reflected on the unvaccinated folks who steadfastly disbelieve medical science. “Fire all the bums out of office, starting with Fauci.” No trust in the proven benefits of medical scientific advances, such as abolishing debilitating and deadly polio, has any influence. No dice. 

So, I focused on the ugly reality of numbers and statistics: America leads the world in deaths, today over 805,000 of our kinsmen/ women are gone. As of December 21, average daily hospitalizations for COVID are 70,000; daily cases of infection hover at 155,000; and deaths average more than 1,300 per day. Unvaccinated folks are 10 times more likely to get infected, hospitalized and die. 

Irrelevant. Pearls at swine. 

Currently, CDC data indicate that only 62 percent of Americans are fully immunized with COVID vaccinations. Only a few reasons for NOT getting vaccinated account for this foolishness: religious beliefs, anger with a government that forces us to give up our liberty and freedom (balderdash), big lies from big liars (criminal), legitimate medical concerns, and perhaps just plain stubbornness. ’Tis a mystery to me, and many others. 

Two brilliant Harvard Medical School doctors have recently studied the phenomenon of anti-vaxxers’ refusal to get vaccinated against COVID. They found that virtually no arguments or entreaties, similar to what I outlined above, worked. 

However, they did find one fairly effective approach, supported by behavioral psychology: positive and negative incentives. Some places offer money to get vaccinated. Some states offered vaccination lotteries, while others offered college tuition. But positive incentives paled in comparison to NEGATIVE incentives. 

Axiom No. 1: “Pain hurts and should be avoided by all costs!” Companies that said: “Get vaccinated or get fired!” found this approach has worked pretty well, especially in very large corporations. Virtually all employees of American Airlines who dealt directly with the public got vaccinated. Only 200 out of 67,000 total employees refused the vaccine and hence got sacked. 

New York City’s government has mandated all employees become vaccinated to stay employed, and it is working. Nonetheless, way too many presumably sane individuals have accepted the pink slip in place of the needle. Go figure. 

Why the negative incentive approach, which violates Axiom No. 1, has not worked even better is an even bigger mystery. Follow the logic that must be drawn from these facts. Getting fired for not taking the vaccination says: “It is more important for me to get dead than for me to keep my job.” Duh? 

Now, boys and girls, this defies any logical thinking; it is totally irrational and defies basic common sense. It is clearly not in one’s own or their loved one’s best interests. Aristotle would have laughed. 

If disbelief in the importance of COVID vaccination is the primary obstacle to reaching our republic’s pandemic goals, more information, begging and pleading, mandates, threats, etc. are NOT going to work any magic. Time to face those ugly facts and statistics, and accept reality. 

I wave the white flag of resignation and reluctantly admit to the actuality that folks who refuse to get vaccinated (or wear masks, or, if in power, prohibit folks from requiring the wearing of masks, such as teachers in the classroom) are flat-out NOT going to get “the jab.” 

The anti-vaxxers are winning, and we should now thank them for ensuring that America shal
l never reach the hallowed land of “herd immunity.” Learn to live with it. COVID, like the flu, is here to stay. 

“Well, all I know is what I read in the newspapers.” – Will Rogers. 

David M. Taub was Mayor of Beaufort from 1990 through 1999 and served as a Beaufort County Magistrate from 2010 to 2015. You can reach him at david.m.taub42@gmail.com. 

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