SAY WHAT-While COVID cases are down and vaccinations are up, huge swaths of this ostensibly great country remain vulnerable to deadly new variants like the Delta strain thanks to the peculiarly American phenomenon of a "golden age" of perilous, obstinate, lunatic anti-vaxxers entertaining a mix of "conspiracy theory Mad Libs" that normal people who actually believe in science deem "dubious," "wholly unfounded," "grossly distorted," and insane. Facing a flood of wild claims that "The Vaccine Is A Microp-Chip Delivery Tool" and "COVID Vaccination=Death," social media executives are playing a frantic "cat and mouse" game with an "empire" of up to 58 million believers on hundreds of websites largely dominated by a "Disinformation Dozen" of anti-vaccine crackpots. "The United States hosts the world's largest and best-organized anti-vaccine groups," warns one, and "the bad guys are winning"—in part, he charges, due to the reluctance of public health officials to acknowledge the reach of anti-science mobs or confront them from fear of giving them "a platform and oxygen." Even though WHO recognized vaccine hesitancy as a key threat to global health even before the pandemic, the ever-growing proliferation of organized, extremist, anti-vaccine groups spreading lies—including the whopper to the black community that vaccines are "medical racism"—render even targeted counter-messaging "drops in a vast sea of misinformation."
And so, the sea engulfs us. The clamorous crowds have periodically managed to close down vaccination sites; mostly, they hold protests with signs shrieking "Trust in God, Not Vaccines," "I Do Not Consent," "COVID=Scam," "Vaccinations Are A Human Rights Violation," "Fascist Lockdown," "Vaccine Mandates Violate Bodily Autonomy," and in honor of their mysterious, ongoing obsession, "Say No To Bill Gates," thus fundamentally proving, notes one critic, "They don't give a fuck about anyone else." Amidst the madness, creative state officials have turned to often impressive bribes to urge their citizenry to do the right thing, if only for the perks. In May, Ohio started a "Vax-A-Million Lottery," offering a cool million bucks a week plus college scholarships, and Maryland, Colorado, Oregon, California have similar deals. West Virginia's giving away cash, pick-ups, rifles; New York offers free Lottery tickets for a shot at $5 million and free tickets to Mets and Yankees games; private businesses award free donuts, drinks, beer, toiletries, 10% off groceries and, now in the once-COVID-hotspot of Washington State, free pot. "Joints For Jabs," part of a new "Shot Of A Lifetime" campaign that also offers four $250,000 drawings and a million-dollar finale, allows licensed cannabis stores to offer one free, pre-rolled joint to each adult who gets a vaccine at their on-site clinic. Given that cannabis retailers were, inexplicably to many, declared essential businesses during the COVID shutdown, the move grants them what one dealer calls "a poetic opportunity to give back."
Still, millions remain at risk - and pose a risk - thanks to the jabbering anti-vax likes of "Dr." Naomi Wolf, who was suspended from Twitter for claiming Fauci is Satan, masks are the new Jim Crow, vaccine passports are the start of genocide, we should "socialize sensibly" to expose ourselves to a "low viral load," and the shit of wisely unvaccinated people should be separated from the unholy shit of the rest of us. This week Wolf is slated to speak at an "Oregonians for Medical Freedom" rally - “LETS STAND AGAINST THE INJUSTICES OF THE COVID LOCKDOWNS" - with an anti-vax doctor who touted the "great news" he got his license temporarily re-instated if he's saving someone from dying and not advising them on vaccines. Meanwhile, in Ohio, where bonkers claims and rumors have been rife, another anti-vax "doctor" came to a hearing to defend a proposed bill to ban vaccine mandates at private or public businesses. Dismissing COVID concerns as "living in fear" - tell it to the 600,000 dead - Dr. Sherri Tenpenny testified she's spent 10,000 hours researching vaccines and many suspect there's "some sort of an interface" between the shots and 5G towers and now people who've had these shots are magnetized and "I'm sure you've seen the pictures all over the Internet...They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick because now we think there’s a metal piece to that" - great news for all those who spend too much time looking for their car keys, though what about dog hair? Then a "nurse" inspired by her testimony backed it up with a dramatic if belligerent presentation, briefly sticking a key on her (sweaty) chest and trying to do the same with a bobby pin on her neck that instantly fell off. "Yeah, so if someone could explain those, that'd be great," she sneered to the panel. "Any questions?" Yes. Many.
More importantly, a final, painful, blessed truth from a longtime health care expert who's worked in the field of HIV since 1985, has seen too much devastation, and is still awaiting a vaccine. "I know what a pandemic looks like," he says. "Thank God for the Covid19 vaccine."
(Abby Zimet writes for CommonDreams.org … where this piece was first posted.)