One of the biggest battles in the war against COVID-19 probably won’t be against the virus but against a rising skepticism about science in general and vaccines in particular that predates the pandemic by years.

It’s a battle the rational among us urgently need to win because the instincts driving that rising and mostly unfounded skepticism denies us the benefit of effective public policy in many ways.

The most timely manifestation, however, is refusal — stated refusal, anyway — among many Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 infection.

Although attitudes about that have changed dramatically since the summer, before any vaccines had been tested and approved for use, the percent of Americans telling pollsters they’ll opt out is still pretty high.

In July, 66 percent of Americans said they wouldn’t be vaccinated, 34 percent said they would, according to a Gallup poll. Recent polls show almost exactly the opposite — 63 percent say they would be vaccinated, 37 percent said they wouldn’t, according to Gallup.

That’s good news for two reasons. For one, the more Americans are willing to be vaccinated, the closer we’ll get to achieving herd immunity — the point at which enough members of a population have been infected and recovered, or have been vaccinated, that viruses can be kept in check without extraordinary measures such as taken to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

Estimates of what it would take to achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 start at about 60 percent of a population; some health authorities argue it’s closer to 80 percent.

Another is that it shows some Americans still can be persuaded by objective argument to change their minds about something.

That might be the most heartening part of Gallup’s recent poll.

Still, the number who claim they’ll opt out is higher than it should be and would have been a few decades ago.

That’s most likely an odd side effect of our economic and technological success since the end of World War II. We’ve been so far removed from the hard realities of human existence for so long that some of us have come to take a lot for granted, as if it were an irrevocable birthright.

It’s not of course, and you need not go back very far in history to reach a time when Americans still remembered how fragile and vulnerable we, our health, prosperity and safety really are against microbes.

It’s hard to imagine, for example, parents being conflicted about whether they’d have their children vaccinated against polio when that finally became possible in the 1950s.

They rushed to have it done; demanded it be done.

The same was true with smallpox, diphtheria, rubella, pertussis; it’s a long list.

Some parents today opt out of those routine vaccinations, which contributed hugely to the health and prosperity we enjoy today, making their own children and the larger community more vulnerable to those old maladies.

That’s driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of how we got to be a country that need not worry much about polio, smallpox, diphtheria, rubella, pertussis and on and on.

It was not by irrevocable birthright, but it was a benefit inherited from generations before who knew better because they had experienced what life was like before vaccines.

A certain amount of skepticism is healthy. We shouldn’t ever buy sight unseen anything people in power are selling, and there’s plenty in the COVID narrative worthy of skepticism.

The safety, effectiveness and vast benefit of vaccines against viruses is not among those, however. That’s long settled. Many of us walking around today are living, breathing proof of that, whether we realize it not.

We all should be vaccinated against COIVD-19 as soon as we’re able.

To do otherwise is to work against overcoming this new threat, to work against our own health and prosperity and is a disservice to the Americans who came before us and put so much into building the world we now enjoy.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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(27) comments

Ron Woody

WOW! At the risk of being considered anti-American, anti-human or some other title that makes me inferior to your intellectual superiority let me state why my skepticism which you write is necessary.

1. As a 60-year-old I have been told my entire life by my government that medications take five years to a decade to be proven safe and effective. This is why prescriptions cost so much, I am told. Now I am being told by my government a safe, effective vaccine was developed in nine months. How is this possible? Which am I to believe?

2. While coronavirus is not identical to the flu it does have characteristics that make it shift and drift similar to the flu. For the 2018/2019 flu season the flu vaccine was only 29% effective (CDC flu view stat). Why am I to believe as we see coronavirus mutate that this vaccine is any more effective?

3. In the 80's I was informed by my government that the AIDS epidemic would end all life as we know it. Dr. Fauci and his pharmaceutical buddies and classmates introduced AZT an expensive pharmaceutical cocktail that did very little to fight the AIDS epidemic and may have hastened death. Now I am supposed to believe this same doctor on initial vaccines that are developed for coronavirus?

Coronavirus is serious and is not to be taken lightly, but the idea that a single vaccine is going to save large groups of individuals for years to come while helpful, is not ensured given all the co-morbidities. Until each of us make personal health a priority then this will continue to occur as additional viruses continue to be created and introduced. That being stated I am encouraging my 85-year-old diabetic mother in assisted living to take the vaccine. As she says, "At this age what do I have to lose?"

George Soros

Every medical professional I have spoken with has gotten vaccinated or is planning to. I think they might know a little bit about medicine and why getting the vaccine is okay. If the US is not going to have strict lockdown protocols, like other countries who have successfully managed to curtail the virus spread, the sooner more folks get the vaccine the soon we can get back to normal.

Ron Woody

I have no doubt that medical professionals are getting the vaccine as they are pressured to get it and the flu shot. If all healthcare workers are supporting the effort why were there numerous news reports over the weekend stating how a high percentage of healthcare workers were not wanting the vaccine?

George Soros

its almost like your conservative media outlets have a bias? Every single medical professional including pharmacists, RNs, Surgeons, etc I have spoken to have 0 problems with it.

Carlos Ponce

I've heard of problems with it George Soros but it they had to do with allergic reactions to components of the vaccine.

E.J Petree

I am still waiting for the GDN to publish a list of places to get the vaccine. Why has UTMB continued to be silent on this and not reach out to the community setting up distribution sites all over the island? If you go on my chart, you may get an vaccine appointment. This is simply inadequate.

Bailey Jones

I'll get the vaccine when it becomes available to the masses. Others in my family who are healthcare workers or have serious health problems are already getting it. My understanding of the science leads me to believe that vaccination is the ONLY way to end this pandemic.

Ron Woody

Mr. Jones I respect all the time you have spent over the past year researching and keeping up with the information on coronavirus. I have a few questions:

1. My understanding is that the rMNA method of delivering a vaccine has never been used before, so how can anyone be sure of the effectiveness?

2. As coronavirus drifts and shifts like the flu how can a vaccine developed for a virus in March be effective for a new strain in October? It doesn't work for flu why would it work for coronavirus?

3. How did AZT work for the last pandemic that Dr. Fauci led us through?

Bailey Jones

Ron -

1. mRNA is a new technology, but it's not brand new. It's been under development for 4 decades. It's the advances in DNA synthesis that have made it suddenly so useful. We can be sure of the effectiveness because of the double-blind trials that have been conducted on tens of thousands of people, and - for most of us who won't be getting the vaccine for some months - we'll have the additional results from millions and millions of users worldwide, many of whom are health care professionals themselves.

2. My understanding of the flu vaccine is that they are the "weakened virus" type that we're most familiar with. Your body responds with very particular antibodies for these very particular pathogens. The two vaccines being distributed now cause your body to create antibodies against the spiky protein structures characteristic of any coronavirus. As long as the COVID variant has these spiky proteins, the vaccine should be effective. That's not to say that a mutation can't occur that doesn't have these spiky proteins, but we have a year's worth of scientific observation of the COVID virus "in the wild", and we haven't seen that yet. As far as we know, all of the variants of COVID in existence at the moment have these proteins and the vaccine will be effective against them. If we want to ensure that a variant doesn't come along that the vaccines won't be effective against, we need to take the vaccine now to stamp out the existing population of COVID virus - because that's where the variants will come from.

3. I don't know much about AZT other than what was in the media at the time, and what I learned from the Dallas Buyer's Club movie. But AZT is not a vaccine, and HIV is not a coronavirus. Wikipedia tells me that AZT is alive and well as an HIV treatment, and that the dangerous side effects were due to long term high dosage use. But to your point, there are lots of marginally effective drugs with terrible side effects - just turn on the TV. If a treatment kills fewer patients than the disease, I suppose that counts as a success. If you're Dr. Fauci, do you prescribe a dangerous drug that may save someone with a terminal disease, or not? I'll also point out that Dr. Fauci is not the solitary gatekeeper of vaccines - there is wide scientific and medical consensus independent of him and the CDC. He could be a serial killer and that wouldn't mean that the science for the COVID vaccine is suspect, because we have the independent trials that have proved its efficacy.

COVID has so far killed 1 of every 1000 Americans. Out of the millions of doses that have been administered worldwide so far, the COVID vaccines haven't killed anyone yet, and except for a handful of extreme allergic reactions (from people with a history of allergic reactions), the side effects have been manageable and short-lived. All any of us can do is make decisions based on the data that we have at the moment. And so far that data is extraordinarily positive.

Dan Freeman

Well said Mr. Jones. My wife and I have received the first round and are waiting three weeks for the booster.

No one can be required to take the vaccine. Those who do not allow others an earlier opportunity. Thank you.

AZT is a treatment not a preventive.

Ron Woody

Great info thanks!

Ron Woody

Mr. Freeman, no where in my comments did I compare AZT to the voronavirus vaccine.

What I am asking is why should I believe the arrogance and hubris of the same doctor and pharmaceutical companies that led to an early death for many in the last great pandemic?

Fortunately I am way down the line before the vaccine will be available.

So are we just going to shut down the economy, give up our rights and accept socialism as this happens more frequently? And it will!

Diane Turski

Getting vaccinated is also the fastest way to rescue our economy! I applaud UTMB for providing a sensible and organized approach for us to get our vaccinations!

Don Schlessinger

[thumbup]

E.J Petree

What is the sensible and organized approach from UTMB for non-healthcare individuals who live on the island?

Gary Scoggin

Or off the island, for that matter.

Jim Forsythe

Anytime a virus mutates it can make a vaccine less effective. Just as the below post states, new technology may make protect better form the flu. Two new vaccines for Corron-19 is using a new technology. The RNA vaccine's have proven so far to protect us even from the new strain that has pop up. The vaccines have proven in test, to be over 90% effective so far. Why is taking the vaccine for Covid-19 important? What is happening now is the Hospital systems and medical staffs are being overwhelmed. Today we are more than likely going to go into a the phase in this area, that will close all bars and limit capacity at other places of business, because our rates are too high. If we do not take the shots, this cycle of closings could last years. Why did the 2018–19 flu season miss on protection from the flu shot? Epidemiologists anticipated the H1N1 strain would be dominant during the U.S. flu season that ended this spring, so the vaccine that was developed and distributed targeted H1N1. But later in the season, the H3N2 strain of flu began spreading. “Unfortunately, the development of the next season’s influenza vaccine, containing three to four strains, requires a six-plus month lead time,” The flu shot developed in February 2018 for the 2018–19 season contained a H1N1 vaccine but not one for H3N2. What is being done to increase protection from the flu? “We know that attacking these proteins in the virus can prevent the flu, but they are constantly changing,” “We’re looking for other parts of the virus where we can prevent the flu with antibodies that don’t change as much .”Among the biotechnology firms working on novel therapies to prevent and treat influenza is San Diego-based Cidara Therapeutics. The company is developing a hybrid drug dubbed CB-012. It targets an enzyme on the surface of the influenza virus critical for reproduction as well as a bi-specific immunotherapy to prompt the immune system to attack the virus. “If the virus mutates (to counter the therapy), it cannot reproduce,” Jeff Stein, PhD, the company’s president and CEO, said. CB-012 has been shown to reduce viral load and provide long-lasting prevention of flu transmission in animal testing.

Gary Scoggin

I encourage those that have trepidations about the vaccine to wait. It makes the line shorter for me.

Snark aside, every healthcare worker I know is enthusiastic about receiving the vaccine. None have mentioned any “pressure” as Mr. Woody asserts.

Ron Woody

My understanding is hospital protocol for years is if staff does not receive a flu shot they are required to wear a designation that shows co-workers and patients that they have not received the flu shot. One can only presume that the same would hold true for the coronavirus vaccine.

While this is a good practice, to state that refusing the flu shot or coronavirus vaccine and receiving a "scarlett letter" does apply pressure whether appropriate or not.

Not an assertion a point of policy that has been told to me by hospital workers.

Jim Forsythe

Anytime a virus mutates, it can make a vaccine less effective. Just as the below post states, new technology may protect us better form the flu.

Two new vaccines for Corron-19 is using a new technology. The RNA vaccine's have proven so far to protect us even from the new strain that has pop up. The vaccines have proven in test, to be over 90% effective so far.

Why is taking the vaccine for Covid-19 important?

What is happening now is the Hospital systems and medical staffs are being overwhelmed. Today we are more than likely going to go into a the phase in this area, that will close all bars and limit capacity at other places of business, because our rates are too high. If we do not take the shots, this cycle of closings and opening could last years.

Why did the 2018–19 flu season miss on protection from the flu shot? Epidemiologists anticipated the H1N1 strain would be dominant during the U.S. flu season that ended this spring, so the vaccine that was developed and distributed targeted H1N1. But later in the season, the H3N2 strain of flu began spreading. “Unfortunately, the development of the next season’s influenza vaccine, containing three to four strains, requires a six-plus month lead time,” The flu shot developed in February 2018 for the 2018–19 season contained a H1N1 vaccine but not one for H3N2.

What is being done to increase protection from the flu?

“We know that attacking these proteins in the virus can prevent the flu, but they are constantly changing,” “We’re looking for other parts of the virus where we can prevent the flu with antibodies that don’t change as much .”Among the biotechnology firms working on novel therapies to prevent and treat influenza is San Diego-based Cidara Therapeutics. The company is developing a hybrid drug dubbed CB-012. It targets an enzyme on the surface of the influenza virus critical for reproduction as well as a bi-specific immunotherapy to prompt the immune system to attack the virus. “If the virus mutates (to counter the therapy), it cannot reproduce,” Jeff Stein, PhD, the company’s president and CEO, said. CB-012 has been shown to reduce viral load and provide long-lasting prevention of flu transmission in animal testing.

Ron Woody

Cool information, thank you Mr. Forsythe.

Dan Freeman

BTW City Offices of Galveston have shut down from the threat of infection. Stay home, mask up, wash often, stay apart.

Bailey Jones

The question of whether people will be "required" to be vaccinated is an interesting one. I would not be at all surprised if, next August, COVID is added to the list of vaccines required to attend school. And I'm fairly certain that many corporations will mandate vaccinations for any workers who aren't working from home.

Wayne D Holt

And now for something completely different...

CDC studies show a 10 to 30 minute intensive exposure (in the face) to an active (presenting symptoms) person with Covid to offer a significant threat of viral load sufficient to infect a healthy adult. People who ride bicycles in open country with masks on are rushing to inject a new type of immunization that has never before been used en mass, developed in record time by Big Pharma companies who have paid billions of dollars in fines over the years for criminal violations but have been exempted from product liability on this, that has already shown severe reactions...directly into their blood stream. Smart move.

Here's some alt-think for those who are still open to questioning the monlithic narrative being poured out to the American public.

"Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca used protocols for their studies that could meet the companies' benchmark for success if it lowered the risk of mild Covid-19, but was never shown to reduce moderate or severe forms of the disease, or the risk of hospitalization, admissions to the intensive care unit or death." That's how you get those 90% success stories; easy peasy. ~ 2020-09-22, New York Times

If you're taking the shot to protect you from getting Covid, you don't understand the process. "A key point to note, however, is that the vaccine isn't an end-all solution to the pandemic. That's in large part because any inoculations developed now are focused on simply preventing symptoms from arising, rather than blocking out the virus altogether. The latter goal is a secondary endpoint, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases." In other words, you'll have Covid but won't know it. Like the tens of millions of other people who didn't take the shot. ~ 2020-10-26, Yahoo! Finance

A toast to Big Pharma and investment bankers for understanding what is really important in this battle: a chance to soak Americans for even more money for drugs. "The largest voices in the health care industry stand to gain from billions of dollars in emergency spending on the pandemic, as do the bankers and investors who invest in health care companies. Over the past few weeks, investment bankers have been candid on investor calls and during health care conferences about the opportunity to raise drug prices. Executives joked about using the attention on Covid-19 to dodge public pressure on the opioid crisis. ~2020-03-19, The Intercept

"Recent House and Senate emergency-spending bills allocate as much as $20 billion or more for vaccine development, and another $6 billion for manufacturing and distribution. "The public will pay for much research and manufacturing," says Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). "Only the profits will be privatized." ~2020-08-13, Rolling Stone

"There are unique and unknown risks to messenger RNA vaccines, including the possibility that they generate strong type I interferon responses that could lead to inflammation and autoimmune conditions. Messenger RNA vaccines have never before been brought to market for human patients." Russian Roulette, anyone? ~2020-05-20, The Independent

And if, against the odds, it all goes to hell in a handbasket for you, at least you know the government will step in to provide compensation to you for the medical malpractice. Ooops..."Though most people who protect themselves with a coronavirus vaccine will never develop serious side effects, such rare cases are barred from federal court and instead steered to an obscure program with a record of seldom paying claims." ~2020-12-22, MSN News/Associated Press

Bon voyage and Godspeed to our intrepid inoculation pioneers. You may have heard you can identify pioneers by the arrows in their back. Or perhaps needles in their arm?

Bailey Jones

No Wayne, that's not where the 90% efficacy comes from. It's much simpler than that. You give the vaccine to 10,000 people and 10,000 more get a placebo. If the number of cases of COVID in the vaccine group is 90% less than the number of cases in the placebo group, then your vaccine is 90% effective. While a vaccine may or may not lessen the effects of a disease in an infected person, that's not the purpose of a vaccine, and that's not how efficacy is calculated.

https://www.cdc.gov/csels/dsepd/ss1978/lesson3/section6.html

Gary Scoggin

The presence of Big Pharma in all of this is a good thing. Who else has the knowledge and the technology to invent and produce these vaccines at scale. What they didn't have was the capital and risk tolerance. That's where the Government came in. This was a great public-private partnership in that different sides contributed to a solution. And, yes, I give credit to President Trump for his support in making this happen.

Why is it that people will not take the vaccine because they don't know what's in it will still eat hot dogs? The vaccines have now been given millions of times with a complication rate comparable to other vaccinations.

Wayne D Holt

Big Pharma has one of the worst corporate track records for wracking up billions in fines for their medical malpractice over decades. Big Pharma didn't have the capital and risk tolerance? Why would they need to put up the money for the product they would profit from when their benefactors in Congress was ladling out our tax dollars for it? And wouldn't every business be risk averse if they could get the government to indemnify them if their product was defective?

I do not plan to take the vaccine and I haven't had a real hot dog in 45 years so I can't answer that question but your last sentence is simply nonsensical. "The vaccines have now been given millions of times with a complication rate comparable to other vaccinations." Do you seriously suggest that a vaccine that was developed at Warp Speed and was just recently provided to the public can in any way be judged over an extended period in comparison to vaccines that have been administered to generations of Americans? What you could truthfully claim is, during the brief initial period of introduction, no complications (other than the occasional death reported, but who's counting) have manifested...but we'll have to wait a year or two or so to note if their are any long-term effects that we don't know about yet. In effect, those people who take this shot are going to be providing the long-term record of complications that would otherwise have shown up in a less Warped drug development regimen. C'est la vie.

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