Here’s something I think is nuts: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that anyone who is fully vaccinated can now safely go maskless just about anywhere, except for in buses, trains and planes. The announcement is said to incentivize people to get fully vaccinated.
That makes utterly zero sense.
Part of the premise is that being fully vaccinated means you almost certainly won’t get COVID-19 and you almost certainly won’t give it to others. But the CDC’s expressed confidence in those two assertions is undermined by their claim that there is a need to incentivize vaccination.
Isn’t the fact that the vaccines work that well incentive enough?
OK, I get it. I get that even though people who are fully vaccinated are out of the woods in terms of their own personal health, we all still have an obligation to avoid letting the unvaccinated clog hospitals just because they don’t believe in the whole idea.
We are a long way from that utopia that libertarians dream of where anyone can shoot themself in the spleen and wave off medical treatment because they were exercising their free choice.
In fact, show me an anti-vaxxer, and I’ll show you someone who, after shooting themself in the spleen, would demand emergency treatment and be outraged if it was withheld. “What do you mean you won’t treat someone with a self-inflicted wound? I’m dying here!”
The incentive to get vaccinated is necessary, even if the vaccine is 100% effective at preventing infection or passing on infection. We don’t live in a fantasy world where if an anti-vaxxer says they’ll take their chances, we can just accept that as their final decision and refuse treatment to them on the grounds that their prior individual decision absolves us of all responsibility for their survival.
Sadly, we live in a civilization that takes care of people who need care, even barbarians who can’t grasp the concept of “civilization.”
I know how contrary it sounds. The typical anti-vaxxer’s position is that it’s nobody else’s business if they get vaccinated. As far as they’re concerned, they don’t need an incentive to be vaccinated, because they don’t need the vaccine. Because it’s their business and their business alone if they come down with COVID. It’s like they all imagine themselves alone in a log cabin in the Alaska wilderness, living off roasted pine cones, pine-needle soup, bear jerky and elk cuts refrigerated in snow banks.
If that were the case, nobody would care if those people got COVID because that would be isolation enough to make vaccination unnecessary. But they aren’t living by themselves in the middle of the Alaska wilderness, where they can just drop dead unnoticed until the postal carrier comes in the spring or early summer with the annual mail, landing the float plane on the nearby lake, if weather permits and the lake has thawed.
No, they’re living down here in the lower 48, and they all have smartphones. They get T-Mobile or Sprint. At the first sign of a possible fatal illness, they’re on the phone with emergency providers begging for assistance. Even if they are 200 miles from a major city, they will be helicoptered to Harborview or their state’s equivalent. They aren’t just going to be lying down, satisfied that their life was ending but at least they “did it their way.”
So it’s true. The CDC is right to want to incentivize anti-vaxxers to get vaccinated, because we don’t need so many doctors and nurses tied up just keeping them from dying. Even if just 1% or 2% of anti-vaxxers end up needing care, that will be another million hospital beds in use.
But how is telling them they don’t have to wear masks an incentive?
Oh, yeah, the CDC says they don’t have to wear masks if they’re vaccinated.
So, sure, they’re all supposed to go get vaccinated to qualify for the new mask-free program?
They already aren’t wearing masks!! They don’t need to qualify for the new mask-free program — they’ve belonged to their own mask-free program since March 2020!
In other news, Bill Maher, host of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” has temporarily suspended the show because he tested positive for coronavirus. The man has been fully vaccinated. There’s a piece of a monologue for him in that.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more of the May 19-25, 2021 issue.