PRESS EDITORIAL: If only we could all be giving thanks for vaccines

This is the Thanksgiving we’ve been waiting for, our day to gather with loved ones and friends to give thanks for the freedom from the threat of a dread disease that a year ago cast a pall over this beloved American holiday.

Families will still gather and be thankful that, unlike the dark Thanksgiving of 2020, they are able to be together, and surely many will also be thankful for the gift of the vaccines that make that possible. And yet the pall of Covid-19 remains—because too many people have rejected that gift.

Wisconsin is firmly in the grip of the virus, a strengthening grip that has driven the rate of infections to its highest point since the beginning of the year, an average of 3,004 per day. More than 1,200 men, women and children are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, the most since Dec. 23, with about a third of them in intensive care, as the disease continues to stress the health care system and its caregivers. The number of deaths in the state caused by Covid-19 rises daily and is expected to surpass 9,000 in the next few days.

This is misery—physical, emotional and financial—that didn’t have to be. Vaccines could have won the battle against the Covid pandemic by now.

In one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of the American can-do spirit, giant drug companies, those juggernauts of capitalism sometimes disparaged as “big pharma,” put their corporate and scientific power to work and, with a strong push from the Trump administration, created anti-Covid vaccines and mass produced millions of doses in record time.

After distribution got up to speed, any adult could walk into his or her local drug store and get free shots of vaccines that are effective in preventing Covid infection, reducing hospitalization and deaths of those who do become infected and curtailing the spread of the virus.

It would have been unrealistic to expect that any number close to 100% of Americans would choose to be vaccinated, but it is hard to accept the fact that close to half of the population of the U.S. and of Wisconsin would refuse. Some reasons, while not acceptable, can at least be understood, as in the case of people who are simply misinformed about the vaccines. These would include those gullible enough to believe the likes of Aaron Rodgers, the MVP of the anti-vaccination league, who used his celebrity and access to the media to repeat demonstrably false claims about the safety and effectiveness of Covid vaccines.

It is impossible, however, to make sense of the fact that many if not most of the 45% of Wisconsinites who refuse vaccination do it for political reasons. It’s a mind-boggling truth of the times: Life-saving vaccines that are the only realistic hope of ending the pandemic have become so politicized they foment cultural warfare.

The following examples, though stranger than fiction, are factual; they really happened in Madison, Wis.

The Madison Catholic diocese issued an order to its 102 parishes forbidding them from hosting voluntary Covid-19 vaccination clinics at their schools and churches. Brent King, a spokesman for the diocese, said the order was issued because the diocese wants to maintain its “neutrality” on whether to be vaccinated. He added, “The diocese has not and will not wade into the polarizing and political environment surrounding the issue.” The spokesman also did not wade into the issue of how this position squares with the dominant tenet of the church, the one that inspires millions of followers worldwide—respect for life.

Also in the capital city, Rebecca Kleefisch, a candidate for governor, characterized a rule requiring poll workers in Madison to be vaccinated as an attempt to block Republicans from witnessing election fraud. Evidence she cited for the bizarre claim was that Republicans are less likely than others to be vaccinated. If it occurred to her that the vaccination rule is meant to make elections safer for voters and poll workers and watchers, she didn’t mention it.   

Is it asking too much to separate vaccination against a virus that has killed more than three-quarters of a million Americans from divisive politics? The subject here, after all, is medicine, not guns, critical race theory or, despite Kleefisch’s laughable comments, voting.

Americans will try to make this a happy Thanksgiving, and we deserve it. Many of us will be traveling to be with distant family members. These Thanksgiving trips were expected to be made with Covid-19 in the rear-view mirror, but unfortunately it is not. It is all around us.

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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