COVID-19 AND VACCINES: WHEN PERFECT IS THE ENEMY OF GOOD
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Recently I shared a Tweet on my Instagram in which the author called out media coverage of the recent death of the late Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, which I discussed in my previous essay about boosters. He recently died of COVID-19 and his death was framed by the media as proof that the vaccines didn't work.
The Tweet gave an example of a better headline: "Continuing wide-scale spread of COVID-19 due to the unvaccinated likely leads to death of immunocompromised, fully-vaccinated, cancer patient, Colin Powell, first Black Secretary of State. There. That's how you describe Powell's death from COVID." - Lisa Senecal
The Tweet does not say he was directly infected by an unvaccinated person, because we do not know that. Rather, it provides a background of facts to prevent it from getting spun as an anti-vaccine narrative. General Powell’s preventable death occurred because not enough people were vaccinated around him, an immunocompromised person. He’s an example of what could happen to any immunocompromised person in the US.
Powell probably did take precautions and mitigation measures in addition to his vaccination. But that doesn’t stop unvaccinated people from coming into his circle. That’s how so many hospitalized people are getting it these days. It also doesn’t stop an unvaccinated person from spreading it to someone vaccinated who might have been completely asymptomatic, but during the shortened period of possible transmission, spread it to Powell.
I was recently told that I was being manipulative with Tweets/shares like this. The thing is, I don’t need to be manipulative in my message. The truth is bleak enough. All I have to do is fight against the spin that makes people distrust real science, and help explain when people are misled. A few folks like to think a lot of what I say is fearmongering, but it is not. It’s what is happening. However, when I say things like this, there are two questions that come up in response.
1) Why don't they just make better vaccines?
No current vaccine is as effective for people who are immunocompromised. There is only so far we can go in assisting an immune system that is not operating normally. Yes, more research is needed and some day this may not be as much of a problem. However, people already think the vaccines are some conspiracy to make people sicker, or that they’re altering genetic information (which is false). I have a certain skepticism, wondering: even if we could create this technology, would people accept it?
More importantly, that level of scientific advancement and research takes time that we do not have in this pandemic. It needs to be and is being done, but in the meantime these vaccines are an incredible feat of science. They are extremely effective (but require mass uptake), and with the immunocompromised getting their third dose and many seeing benefit, this is the best we have.
2) "Why get vaccinated, they still get COVID-19!"
I have written about this before. The overwhelming evidence still shows that the vast majority of people actually sick with, hospitalized with, and dead from COVID-19 have not been vaccinated. People who are vaccinated CAN still be infected, because no vaccine we have ever created has been 100% effective. But folks who are vaccinated have been shown, even with Delta, to be 80% less likely to get infected, and those that do get infected clear the virus much more quickly than those not vaccinated. When you're only contagious for a few days rather than weeks, that means something.
Both of these questions are examples of the nirvana fallacy: the idea that if a treatment/intervention is not 100% effective and safe, it is useless. In cases like this, "perfect" is the enemy of good.
You can still get injured in a car accident despite wearing a seat belt. A condom is not 100% effective against pregnancy or STDs. But we still use these measures because they lessen the chances of the unplanned events. Yes, breakthrough infections are happening, but they are not the reason the pandemic is still here. To say otherwise, against the evidence we have, is disingenuous.
SPEAKING OF DISINGENUOUS, LET'S TALK ABOUT AARON RODGERS
Cole Beasley and Allison Williams recently announced their choice not to get vaccinated and it was clear they both fell victim to disinformation, but at least they have been honest about that choice. I respect that choice (though I disagree with it and I wish I could dispel the myths they subscribe to). Aaron Rodgers outright lied, though.
He stated, without hesitation, that he was "immunized" when asked back in August, but purposely did not say vaccinated. Now he has become infected with COVID-19 and has named every myth in the book.
He said in a recent interview that his immunity was garnered when he received a homeopathic treatment to "raise antibody levels" from his doctor (whose credentials are questionable with this; there are no "homeopathic remedies" proven to work for COVID-19 or do anything to manipulate the immune system). The NFL is correct to consider him unvaccinated and not immune.
He cited myths of sterility and that wearing a mask caused him to inhale carbon dioxide (both disproven), and then talked about how he consulted Joe Rogan and took ivermectin (I did a whole post on why that was a bad call) (he also took monoclonal antibodies, which Rogan took as well, and are the only treatment currently approved and shown to have effect on COVID-19, though more are in the works).
He also tried to say "natural immunity has not been part of the conversation" which is also not true - I have written about this, too.
Then he claimed he could not take the mRNA vaccines because he was allergic to an ingredient - the only ingredient you can really be allergic to is polyethylene glycol (the active ingredient in Miralax). Maybe he is, but I don't think any of us can feel confident in this claim now. He also reported dismissing the J&J vaccines after the concerns about blood clots arose, ignoring the fact that those blood clots were deemed extremely rare and that benefits of vaccination far outweighed the risks (especially compared to the risks of blood clots with COVID-19 infection).
In his interview, he goes so far as to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. and compare his own actions. Let me be clear once again: vaccine mandates are not Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, or segregation. Rodgers is not MLK. He's not a victim of cancel culture, either (“caught in the crosshairs of the woke mob“ as he puts it). Aaron Rodgers is a liar who put other people around him in danger and then got caught. Being misled by disinformation is one thing, and I don't fault anyone for that. If Rodgers had questions or fears, I wish he had talked to a real doctor following real evidence. But he lied about his vaccination status, put others at risk, and used his platform to propagate disinformation (and he wants to claim, incorrectly, that vaccinated people are the problem).
Vaccines have always been a collective measure. Public health relies on us all protecting each other, but Americans today don’t want to do that. There is this emphasis on the preservation of "individual freedoms," even when none are being assaulted. In the case of the deadliest pandemic in a century due to one of the most contagious diseases we have ever dealt with...the so-called "individual freedoms" are too often just ignoring the health and safety of others. No one is forcing you to get vaccinated, but if you choose not to do so, don't lie about it to avoid consequences of that choice.
On the other hand, if there is something holding you back or worrying you about vaccines, I welcome your questions.
Think about your family and your community and #GetVaccinated.