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Rich Manieri

Cagle Syndicate

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

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.

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. 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.

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 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.”

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.

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.

Rich Manieri’s column is distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

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