I recently found out that a friend of mine — a smart guy — was not vaccinated, and I confronted him about it.
How could he have not gotten his vaccination? And how had he not seen fit to tell me and our other mutual friends? Wasn’t he worried about the risk he was posing not just to himself, but to the rest of us?
He tried to laugh it off, offering up a bunch of concerns rooted in conspiracy theories. But I told him that he had to get vaccinated, period.
The next time I saw him, he was worried about the omicron variant and asked if I would go with him to get the jab. I texted him a site where he could register and told him to let me know once he had. That was Saturday. He still hasn’t signed up.
I am disappointed, and I am angry, not just with my friend but with all the people who are choosing not to get vaccinated.
There was a point, earlier on in the pandemic, when vaccines were still scarce, when I tried to be tolerant with the holdouts, tried not to shame them, tried not to be angry with them, tried to allow them time to educate themselves about the benefits of getting vaccinated.
But that time has long since passed for me. Call me one of the intolerant. That’s what I am. I will not coddle willful ignorance anymore. I will not indulge the fool’s errand of “I’m still doing my own research” anymore, either.
This virus has already killed nearly 800,000 Americans and infected nearly 50 million. We are now averaging about 120,000 new cases a day.
This virus is deadly and unrelenting. The only way out of this situation, for our country and the world, is through the vaccines. We must dramatically shrink the number of people vulnerable to the virus — or else we risk allowing our population to act as a petri dish for the growth of variants.
In July, Michael Saag, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told The Guardian: “Unvaccinated people are basically the cannon fodder of the virus. The virus needs people to infect in order to replicate and the more people it has that are vulnerable or susceptible to infection, the more likely it will mutate.”
The unvaccinated don’t only leave themselves vulnerable to the virus, they make everyone more vulnerable.
I have heard all the reasons for resistance. There are the people who have politicized the virus and see getting vaccinated through a partisan lens. There are the people who view government pressure, and especially mandates, to put something in your body as overreach and anathema to the American ideal of independence and freedom. There are people who don’t trust the government, sometimes with good reason.
I have heard it all. And I reject it all.
There are just too many fresh graves pocking the land to entertain these objections. And too many lives disrupted, as people grieve lost loved ones, alter their employment, and keep their children home from school.
When this pandemic first exploded, I thought that it would be a disruption of a few months. We are now closing in on year two, and while some offices and schools have reopened, cases are again surging in many parts of this country, and the omicron variant has spooked markets around the world.
We now have to consider the very real possibility that the virus will not be eradicated, but will become endemic. The journal Nature put this more directly in February, “The coronavirus is here to stay.” In a survey of more than 100 immunologists, researchers and virologists, the journal found that almost 90% thought that the coronavirus would become endemic. As Nature put it at the time, “it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come.”
Even if eradication is all but impossible, it is possible to control the virus and mitigate its spread, if more people are vaccinated.
So yes, I am furious at the unvaccinated, and I am not ashamed of disclosing that. I am no longer trying to understand them or educate them. Barriers to access have fallen. The only reason for remaining unvaccinated that I now accept is from people who have medical conditions that prevent it.
All others have a choice to either be part of the solution or part of the problem. The unvaccinated are choosing to be part of the problem.
Charles M. Blow is a columnist for The New York Times.