On July 20th there were 62,484 new reported cases of Covid-19. Just one month before, on June 20th, there were 4,063 cases. That’s a jump of 58,421 — over a 93 percent increase. The delta variant accounts for 80percent of these new Covid cases. But perhaps the most remarkable statistic: unvaccinated individuals account for 99 percent of recent deaths, accordingto Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president and head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
My father is one of the approximately 40 percent of Americans who won’t get vaccinated.
“Why won’t you get the shot?” I have put this question to him multiple times since the vaccine became readily available to his age group in early January of this year. At first, he put me off by telling me he wasn’t able to get on a list because of the lack of organization of vaccinations in Florida, where he lives. Because of my age group and the country where I live, I still wasn’t able to get my shot, so I believed him. But when wealthy millennial and Gen X friends from various Latin American countries told me they had hopped off to Miami, Vail and their vacation houses in Dallas to get their shots, then I knew he was lying.
Again, I confronted him. And this time, the discussion was much more awkward. Dad told me he was “investigating” which shot was the best to take: Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, and that he was discussing the matter with his doctor. I told him that experts agreed that the best vaccine to get was any vaccine — just get a vaccine! He told me his doctor still hadn’t gotten the vaccine himself.
I have made every type of argument to convince my father to protect himself against Covid-19. I’ve appealed to his fear of dying and leaving two teenagers (my half-brother and sister) without a father and without the only earner in their family. I’ve appealed to him by threatening to withhold seeing his grandchildren (my kids) because they are too young to be vaccinated themselves, and I don’t want to expose them to this virus unnecessarily.
I’ve tried shaming him, telling him how lucky he is that he is an American citizen and can access any of the three main vaccines at any pharmacy, supermarket or doctor’s office. And, of course, I have begged him to do it for me, if not for the rest of humanity and the vulnerable people unable to be vaccinated but counting on people like himself for herd immunity.
Yesterday, when I asked him about why he still isn’t vaccinated, his response was, “I don’t trust the process.”
For those reading this article, I understand your anger toward my father — I have felt it myself. I am angry at his gullibility, weakness, ignorance, abuse of privilege and sense of entitlement. But I am even more angry at the far-right wing news pundits and the former president, wealthy people who have made careers out of offensive and far-fetched conspiracy theories. I am angry that they have been given a platform to spurn science and spew false information that presents a danger to my loved ones. I am angry that they got through to my family.
Above the anger and frustration, I feel overwhelmed and sad: I love my dad and I am terrified for him. The delta variant has been said to be more contagious and possibly more dangerous than the strain of the disease that came before it. I don’t want my father to become another sad statistic, a casualty of the culture wars pervading the US.
In my opinion, the only way to protect people like my father is to effectively force them to be immunized by cutting them out of society until they do the responsible thing. The government and private industry should take the initiative and step up requirements for vaccines in order to participate in activities like flying or eating out. People can choose to exercise their bodily autonomy, but not at the expense of everyone else’s health. If they continue to refuse the vaccine, they should stay at home, in the same way kindergartens and colleges often refuse students access until they can prove they have been properly vaccinated against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis.
It is incumbent on the private and public sectors to amp up requests for proof of vaccination in order to convince skeptics like my dad. He is keen to partake in the aspects of pre-pandemic life that he greatly misses. He has to be shown that in order for us all to return to normal, vaccines will be needed — otherwise we all end up being punished over the actions of a few conspiracy theorists.
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