Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Afraid of needles | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Afraid of needles

Today’s column owes a debt of gratitude to our right-wing friends here in Summit County. For it never ceases to amaze me what some will say in the name of solutions for current COVID-19 challenges in our community. Today, it is the vaccine mandate.

Let’s start with the anti-COVID vaxxers who claim that freedom and choice takes precedent over a government regulation of a health decision. How ironic that their position puts them in the same bed as the pro-choice protesters in Texas.

Several readers have written letters to the editor in the recent past comparing the current vaccine mandates as akin to mandates from Hitler in pre-World War II Germany or Russia in 1912, or that COVID-19 is a profit-seeking virus that the medical profession is using to help the left control the population without dissent. One writer even claimed that forcing Americans to be vaccinated was the equivalent of “medical rape” and was a violation of the Nuremberg Code (a 1947 code written in response to the horrific medical experiments performed by Nazi doctors during the Holocaust). Be wary whenever something or someone is compared to Hitler in any discussion.

Presumably, an objection to the COVID-19 vaccine is also predicated on an objection to all vaccines. But for some reason, folks who have been previously vaccinated against a host of viruses won’t accept this highly effective COVID-19 vaccine, even now that the Food and Drug Administration has approved the Pfizer vaccine and thus at least one vaccine is out of the emergency-use authorization status.

Of course, opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine would manifest itself into real-world difficulties if applied to all life-saving vaccines in that if you wish to enroll your child in a Colorado licensed child care facility or school (K-12), the child must be vaccinated against hepatitis B, chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and inactive polio. Are these state laws concerning vaccines for children also invalid under some freedom of choice argument? A violation of the Nuremberg Code to prevent children from getting chicken pox? From a consistency standpoint for the anti-science crowd, they must be.

Instead of focusing solely on rights, perhaps it is time to instead focus on responsibilities and the considerations for society as a whole. It is perfectly fine to refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as long as you are willing to suffer the consequences of this decision. Presumably, one who does not trust science or the medical community concerning the vaccine would not wish to trust science or the medical community for treatment of the virus-induced illness. If the argument is that individual rights trump the rights of society, then certainly society should not be forced to pay, financially and otherwise, for the costs incurred by those who suffer negative consequences as a result of saying “no” to a vaccine that has saved millions of lives worldwide. Then again, being left to resist a deadly virus with only bleach, veterinary parasite medication and a malaria treatment in your arsenal is a recipe for disaster.

Imagine the life expectancy today had public health decisions historically been based upon individual freedoms over the common good. Every year, we would wonder where the next outbreak of diphtheria or some other terrible disease would occur. Imagine the current life expectancy if the pandemic is allowed to continue by our collective choice. COVID-19 has already shaved 478 days from the average American’s life expectancy, and it is not yet finished.

Perhaps this libertarian approach of relying upon self rather than society should not fly given that the vaccine protects those vaccinated, along with children and those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. It also protects those whose religion generally prohibits the use of any vaccines (namely Christian Scientists and the Dutch Reformed Church in the U.S.). Other than these two religions, all major religions in the U.S. support the use of the vaccine. They have all drawn the same conclusion: The risks of not vaccinating our citizens vastly outweighs any religious concerns for getting the vaccine.

When history books reflect upon this era in U.S. history, they will be amazed that as a country we choose not to greatly reduce the amount of needless suffering and death with a very effective remedy. What will the history books conclude when they ask the simple question, “What were they thinking?” Or more likely, “Were they thinking?”

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