This op-ed was written on December 20, 2020 and published on December 27, 2020 in the Florida Times Union through the “USA Today” news network as a guest columnist. The Times Union is the major newspaper for a metroplex of 1.6 million people and one of the top 100 newspapers in the country.
Here is the original essay from the Florida Times Union:
“Let’s do the right thing and vaccinate families as a single unit”
The CDC’s recommendations for the next two groups of people to be vaccinated raises almost as many questions as it answers. As expected, groups 1b and 1c comprise critical frontline workers, noncritical frontline workers, and people with health conditions that place them at higher risk.
These vaccine recommendations appear to be too heavily focused on the science and not enough on human nature and morality. The selection of critical frontline workers for inclusion in group 1b makes a great deal of sense. What does not make sense morally and possibly not even health-wise is authorizing the vaccine only for the worker instead of the worker’s entire family unit.
It is likely that people who get vaccinated will become less risk averse. As a result, their work environment will naturally become riskier. We’re vaccinated. We’re safe. We can relax a little. It’s human nature.
We suspect the engine driving this pandemic is asymptomatic people. What we do not know is how effective these vaccines are at reducing the spread of infection. We know there is a low incidence of symptomatic infection in people who have been vaccinated. So it is likely that people who have been vaccinated and become infected will be asymptomatic instead of symptomatic, and we have insufficient data for how large this number might be. It could be huge.
So what this could all add up to is a possible increase in risk for the families of all vaccinated frontline workers. Right now, if an unvaccinated frontline worker gets sick, they are more likely to show symptoms, and therefore more likely to protect their family. After vaccination, this could all get turned on its head. We could be setting ourselves up for the unintended consequence of a major flareup in infection by not protecting the entire family unit.
What father or mother is going to want to be vaccinated when their teenage children and spouse are not? This will lead to resistance to getting vaccinated, the exact opposite of what healthcare experts are seeking.
Further confusing matters, the CDC’s lifeboat decision to include smokers (current and past) in group 1c is morally and ethically wrong. So if you smoke, congratulations, you are at the head of the next line to get a vaccine. Does this include pot? Vaping? Come on. Smoking is a dangerous lifestyle choice which we are now going to reward? This group of past and present smokers has to include vast numbers of people. I smoked for 21 years and quit 25 years ago, so for that stupid decision, I get to be vaccinated before the family members of some of our frontline workers. That is so wrong. I think the government should tell smokers that they need to wait for the next lifeboat.
I also believe everyone should be rapid tested for covid antibodies first, and if you have antibodies, then you should have to wait to be vaccinated. The size of this group who were previously or currently infected is estimated to be 20% of the country. By sending smokers and everyone who already has some protection, as indicated by covid antibodies, to the end of the line, we might just have enough vaccine to protect all group 1b critical frontline workers and their families. It is the right thing to do, even if it is not the most scientific thing to do.
This op-ed was written while we were living in Northern Florida during the pandemic. The madness that occurred in Florida due to far-right politics overriding commonsense and safety is implicit in this essay. The city of one million where we lived was hard hit. Early on in the pandemic, for a period of weeks, we become the national epicenter of the pandemic. We had freezer truck morgues and everything else imaginable and unimaginable, and yet, most of the people surrounding us continued to deny the reality of covid.
All throughout the pandemic, the majority of the people in our area refused to wear masks. Many taunted and threatened those who did wear masks. Many believed vaccines were part of a capitalistic conspiracy and ivermectin was the cure. Our own doctor, unsolicited, advised us to take ivermectin as a preventative measure. When we went to get a vaccine booster, we were the first people to do so because almost no one was getting vaccinated. To this day, only about 60% of the people are vaccinated.
We left Florida in June 2022 after living there for five years. Prior to Florida, we had lived in Los Angeles. Estimates are that approximately 30% of the people who moved during the pandemic did so partially or completely for political reasons. When we fled Florida, we felt like domestic political refugees and still do.