People have a right to reject vaccination against COVID-19; no question.

The question is how much responsibility does society have to prioritize health care for people who’ve made that risky personal decision.

That question will become more and more relevant if more and more people become seriously ill and demand more and more of limited health services.

It also highlights a strange paradox.

Among the main things driving the militant anti-vax bloc is a fear and loathing of the big evils — big government, big pharma, big tech, big this, big that, big the other thing — all of which, the theory argues, act in concert to beguile, befuddle and bamboozle the gullible into being vaccinated.

The argument is people who’ve been vaccinated are just too lazy to find, too blind to see or too stupid to comprehend the awful truth right there on YouTube.

If people want to believe that, fine. But why do those same people show up at the hospital — a veritable temple to the big evils — demanding treatment when they begin suffering badly from COVID infection?

Why not stay home, out of big medicine’s clutches, and treat the infection with CBD oil or quartz crystals?

Personal rights are among the cornerstones of society, but they’re not unlimited. Nor do they supersede everything else.

One person’s rights end where they impede the rights of others.

That’s not a radical notion. It’s not even sophisticated. It’s trite. It’s middle-school civics.

We’re headed toward that collision of rights. The signs appeared when Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texas hospitals to postpone some elective medical procedures to free up resources to accommodate an increasing number of people seriously ill with COVID.

The inescapable fact is COVID hospitalization rates are increasing because of unvaccinated people. Almost 100 percent of people needing hospital care for COVID infection are unvaccinated.

The University of Texas Medical Branch, the main health care provider in the county, said it would postpone “non-urgent elective cases that require an inpatient bed post-operation.”

Other hospital systems will make the same decisions if the numbers of cases requiring hospitalization keep climbing.

This small accommodation might be appropriate, but it’s reasonable to ask where is the limit.

People who had never contracted COVID-19 died during the worst parts of the pandemic because many medical procedures were forbidden by government order to make room in hospitals for victims of the virus. They died of cancer, kidney failure and other things that were killing people long before anyone ever heard of COVID-19.

That was one thing back then. It’s quite another now.

If things get worse, as some predict they will, how much can health care consumers be expected to sacrifice to accommodate people who’ve made a personal decision to reject vaccination?

Is chronic pain enough? That was the sacrifice required of people needing hip and knee replacement surgery last year. Is it enough to stay home wondering whether malignant tumors are getting bigger and spreading? People had to do that last year. Will some be required to stay home and die, as some were in 2020?

Why should the willfully unvaccinated get spots at the front of the line, priority on the beds and the top-shelf care at the expense of people who’ve done their bit to counter the virus?

No doubt some people are genuinely afraid of vaccines because of cultural mistrust passed down like family heirlooms or thanks to the dense fog of misinformation, disinformation and non-information ginned up by a tireless cabal of conspiracy mongers.

We urge those willing to hear and heed reason to find somebody they trust — a personal physician, a pastor, a friend or relative — and get the facts about the relative risks in being unvaccinated and being vaccinated.

They might also read information from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Johns Hopkins University and the Mayo Clinic, to name a few among a whole cosmos of credible sources.

To the loud and militant, immune to reason and fact and bent on propagating fallacy, by all means, roll the dice. It’s your life.

But know you’re not helping anyone or thing. You’re providing hosts to grow new strains of COVID and probably abetting organized efforts to undermine our health and national security by sowing seeds of hokum grown at foreign troll farms.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

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(40) comments

Craig Mason


Amanda DeVries

So do you share the same sentiment for those with Type 2 diabetes and the litany of health issues that occur because of that disease? That is a disease of poor choices that is easily corrected with diet and exercise yet those people occupy many many hospital beds also. I mean those people have every right to make the choices they do too correct? So do we put them at the end of the line for medical care?

Mike Ritzmann

Curious...what if, and it's a substantial "if" - two or three years down the road after large population, peer-reviewed studies WITH control groups are published, there is found to be a causative link between covid treatments/vaccinations and health concerns? Mr. Smith, will your same triage methodology be applied to vaccinated people in need of medical attention?

The inability or unwillingness of people, including healthcare practitioners, to admit that there is not enough established anecdotal evidence to form good conclusions is causing a posturing bravado that is intimidating and alienating to some people.

The covid vaccines may very well be fantastic but I haven't seen data that convinces me of that and I can't take seriously someone on tv or in the local paper - that has no more access to efficacy study data than I do - when they tell me that "vaccines work" and people that don't get vaccines "deserve what they get." Please, by all means, make your individual decision and may you benefit greatly from it. Please stop pretending that you know more than the rest of us.

This time of people blindly abusing and shouting down those they disagree with is reminiscent of many periods in our recent history where mob-rules mentalities have led to rapid declines in societal freedoms, privileges and, ironically, the ability to make decisions for oneself.

Larry Grissom

Oh good gosh. It’s one of the willfully ignorant Mr Smith is speaking of. Wear your tin foil hat but get out of intelligent debates.

Brian Murphy

Don't forget obesity. Let's not treat these patients along with smokers. See how ridiculous this argument is?

Lisa Beasley


Larry Grissom

Apples and oranges. Get off your diabetes soapbox. You cannot compare the two

George Croix

Quite an editorial, Michael.

With that suggestion in mind, bearing in mind the unlimited number of cases and situations that people engage in risky personal decisions that go south, maybe expand it to other areas on that exact same criteria....

Try these out, regardless of triage assessment:

We can let people who choose to run a stop sign and get T-boned wait outside the ER until all other patients get seen.

We should let dopers who choose to do that stuff and OD wait in line until all non dopers get medical attention.

Same for drunks who get hurt. Screw you until everybody else is helped.

Anyone who chooses to drive but not learn how to recover from a skid and then hydroplanes on a rainy day hydroplane skid and does a couple or three rolls can just wait outside.

Burn victims who didn't buy and learn to use a fire extinguisher, well, tough it out for a while....

How about one of the 'peaceful' protesters who gets a bottle in the face from one of the other idiot losers he's with and can't see and is bleeding badly...nobody made 'em loot the target or firebomb Mom & Pop's store...


If any of the above or similar ALSO are unvaccinated for COVID we can make them wait twice as long...

Lost in just about the meanest editorial I've personally seen in the GDN, to date, is just how in the heck you figure a patient who is non-responsive, out cold, or unable to get enough air to speak is going to prove their vaccination status...Not everyone has someone else to assist them when sick.

Maybe we could require tattooing ourselves with the injection codes/dates in a conspicuous place for easy First Responder visibility since a wallet card or a pix could get lost or not be on the person...

It aggravates the cra_ out of me, too, that people are irresponsible or use up resources or get hurt or sick just being as_es when they didn't have to, COVID or anything else, but what you've just accomplished is given a bunch of people yet another reason to avoid the vaccines....they don't like to be bullied to the point of threatened....especially when it comes to medical care that in this country we provide emergency/critical care for anyone showing up who needs it, smart/dumb/fat/thin/citizen/non-citizen alike - hurt/sick, get treated....

Good job on that......

If you can find a Doctor or Paramedic willing to go along until proof of vaccination is shown, then we've regressed about 75 years.....

Don Schlessinger

Well said George. As I read the article the "R" word kept coming to mind. We who are vaccinated are better than the unvaccinated. Those unvaccinated just don't deserve to be saved make them sit the back of the line.

Carlos Ponce

Don Schlessinger, the unvaccinated contains "R"s, "D"s and "I"s.

"We who are vaccinated are better than the unvaccinated."

Actually, many of the unvaccinated don't need the vaccine or cannot take.

Taking a superiority stance makes you a pompous ***.



George Croix

Pretty sure Don was not agreeing with the editorial, but instead saying it was a hit job against the 'R' folks by a political opposite claiming the moral high ground.

I believe that was sarcasm, not support.

Bill Broussard

Very well said George. I would be happy if folks who refused to get vaccinated but got sick were still treated but—-in a new change—had to pay for it themselves.

George Croix

Actually, Bill, imho there SHOULD be SOME consequences for bad decisions impacting others, but not by withholding Med care….at work it was “work first, grieve later” and that should apply here.

Not starting yet another opportunity for both sides to blame anyone not voting like they do, but let’s keep in mind that the largest percentage demographic refusing vaccination to date are routinely taken for granted to not vote for the right, except the ones referred to by their own as turncoats, or worse…even that’s less bad than importing COVID and bussing it across the nation…ALL of their lives still matter…

Paying up for decisions gone south that you and I have to pay for? Here’s my two cents on this subject of unvaccinated (I’m still against forced, but not against consequential action for not being)

You have the financial resources you pay. Long as it takes…

No bucks, you do community service. Lots of trash needs picking up, etc.

No legal right to be here in first place you get deported. Next time follow our laws…

I advise the easily offended to place both hands on top of head and hold tight to prevent launching top of same…

Bailey Jones

I'm not a person who enjoys either crowds or chaos. Avoiding a hospital under siege is more than enough reason for me to be vaccinated.

This reminds me of an interview with Phyllis Schlafly I heard decades ago. She was running around the state advocating for hospitals to withhold care from undocumented immigrants. "Those people" were sucking up "our" healthcare. It seemed outrageous at the time and still does. What sort of society withholds medical care? From anyone?

I don't know how readers who will be aggrieved at your editorial came down on Schlafly's proposal 30 years ago.

I understand the frustration of healthcare workers - we all thought that vaccination would end the pandemic. And it would have, if not for those who refuse to be vaccinated. Burnout among nurses and doctors is just one more side effect of this pandemic. The difference is that this time - this wave - it's completely avoidable.

I understand that some people have legitimate health concerns that keep them from getting vaccinated. I understand that some people have ample reasons to distrust the medical profession - and I hope that they can find the courage to put that history behind them. I less understand the politics of ignorance and fear that seem to drive the largest mass of anti-vaxxers. They just look like idiots to me.

And yet, even idiots deserve healthcare - whether they're drunk driving idiots, "hold my beer" bro-idiots, or COVIDiots. Nothing erases BS like a brush with death. I hope that those who enter the hospital ignorant will emerge enlightened, and spread that light among their anti-vaxxer communities. That's the least they can do for all the pain and suffering they are causing to the very people who are saving their lives. Because those people are heroes.

Carlos Ponce

"undocumented immigrants" The two Harris County Hospitals (LBJ and Ben Taub) are at capacity (LBJ) or near capacity (Ben Taub at 95%). LBJ is the hospital Governor Abbott called for outside-the-state assistance - staffing shortage.

Oh, by the way.... a large percentage of their patients are illegals.

Michael Jozwiak

Disgusting! Sounds like you are a KKKhristian. "Do unto others, then cut out"

Carlos Ponce

"KKKhristian"????? Not only do you have a spelling problem but you stutter when you type. Its "Christan", Michael Jozwiak. Learn to spell!

Bailey Jones

lol - oh Carlols, thank you. I needed a laugh this morning. And give "Christan" my best.

Carlos Ponce

Make that Christian. I has a student named Christan in the past and absentmindedly reverted to that spelling.

Bailey Jones

"I has a student named Christan" Seriously, Carlos, stop it - [lol] you're killing me. [lol]

Jim Forsythe

As of Monday afternoon, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital’s ICU was 100 percent full, and 63 percent of patients were being treated for COVID-19 complications. Why this is alarming is because a Covid19 patient admitted to ICU spends 5 times the number of days in ICU vs a none Covid19 person.

As of August 9, 2021, 63% of the ICU patients at LBJ have COVID; Ben Taub's ICU is at 95% capacity and 27 percent of its ICU patients are being treated for COVID.

LBJ Hospital is adding several tents for its COVID-19 overflow patients but they don't have the staff available to operate them yet.

"In my LBJ hospital, more than 50% of the ICU patients are now COVID positive, which is a huge burden," Porsa said. Porsa is President and CEO of Harris Health System .

Last year, the state sent 140 nurses to help with the pandemic. Right now, the state has sent none.

Porsa said to expect to wait in the ER for up to 24 hours.

Carlos Ponce

Nothing that contradicts what I posted.

"Why Harris County takes care of its own - papers or no papers"

A six year old article but still describes clientele.

Santa Fe Dental


Sarah Clark Konopik


Jim Forsythe

As I do not take the Houston chronicle, I can not read your link.

People are people, and if you want to turn away people at the ER's, that's on you.

If we want to reduce the number of people with Covid19 needing ICU care, it on the people that refuse to be vaccinated.

From a personal point of view, when I work over 1800 hours of overtime for one year, I was burned out. The medical staff's are starting down this same path, and it may become a critical mass of a shortage of staff. Once one reaches this point, no amount of overtime matters! Also this is when people start making mistakes.

We will start seeing a bigger shortage of medical staff, if things do not change.

Vaccinate, sanitize and mask up.

Carlos Ponce

I don't subscribe either. Try clicking on it anyway. I had no problems.

Jim Forsythe

I already used my free looks for August.

Carlos Ponce

Clear your cookies.

Sarah Clark Konopik


Ted Gillis


George Croix

Is there no subject so deadly that we can’t just disagree on it but must also devolve to little pi—ing matches that my 6 year old Grandson would find childish….

I crack myself up….

George Croix

It’s probably a pipe dream of mine, considering NOTHING isn’t polarized politically these days as the prime consideration for just about everything, but somewhere down the road we could benefit greatly from an honest, no favorites, objectivity meets scientific method, and nobody cares who gets the credit or blame, study and report widely posted on how many COVID 19 deaths were actually from the effects of the virus it’s lonesome self vs how many were actually deaths from pre-existing conditions aggravated by COVID vs how many were COVID positive but died entirely from other conditions. Guy keeled over from a heart attack after told he tested positive, as a very rough example…or 5’-8” 300 pounder on ventilator for months or worse because already difficult to breathe…or fell of side of cliff while free climbing but was COVID a symptomatic…..etc…

This virus and resulting confusion and paranoia and more flip flopping than a circus act has, as it’s worst impact after the deaths, has set us at each other’s throats and encouraged tribalism even worse than we had already become from the America is good/evil and needs to be continued as is vs needs to be totally changed back-and-forth…

I, personally, think we’re getting a lot of info filtered by the entities putting out the info to make their case, and less so from actual facts being objectively reported.

May be wrong, and that filtering may be just unknowns due to an evolving learning curve…..

It would be easier to believe the latter if we hadn’t found out we’d been BS’d so much so far about the #1 needing proof item - where/how did this mess REALLY start….

I’d like to see some untainted facts available before I head to my reward, lest we end up with deja vu all over again down the road….

George Laiacona

Heard immunity can not be reached as long as the uneducated don’t know anything about the 1918 pandemic or any other virus problems since then. I can only assume that the unvaccinated Americans wish to join the group called “Volunteers for the thinning of the herd “.

George Croix

Do they really have to be uneducated, George, or just get that moniker for not agreeing with you, like, you know, possibly 2021 conditions/realities not the same as 1918, for a start....

Perhaps so.

A lot of people think education is a synonym for smart.

In my line of work they tended to cause conditions that resulted in things blowing up...

Farrah Akhtar

THANK YOU for writing this. Last week I was notified that my surgery at Methodist was pushed back two months because of the many unvaccinated people chose to ignore science are flooding our hospital systems. It was wreckless of them to make that gamble, and the health of others shouldn't be on hold because of it.

Sarah Clark Konopik


Brian Mobley

This entire article is simple gaslighting.

David Blumentritt

This goes against the entire concept of triage care which has remained an important aspect of caring for people and getting greatest survival numbers during times of war, pandemics, disasters, etc. This article was obviously written to ruffle feathers and a desperate attempt to sell papers. As a healthcare professional 90+ percent of the reason adults are in the hospital and ICU is because of the things they have done and keep doing to their bodies. It doesn't mean we treat them differently. What a selfish opinion this is. There are many that can't get the vaccine. There are also many non responders to the vaccine. This is truly a selfish, non researched, and normalized article that sadly shows how inundated our culture is with selfishness.

Jarvis Buckley

This article & some of the comments just show how hard hearted liberals can be . Your article

Is disgusting.

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