An Open Letter to My Fellow Republicans: Get Vaccinated!

Screen Shot 2021 03 17 at 1.49.21 PM
Screen Shot 2021 03 17 at 1.49.21 PM

How Antivaxxers Are Betraying One of Our Most Sacred Conservative Principles

By Robert Wilkes – Senior Correspondent at Divided We Fall 

I am a well-known conservative contributor to Divided We Fall. I have publicly defended Trump, attacked Biden and the Left’s socialist agenda, and opposed progressive calls for Senate reform, Supreme Court expansion, and reparations. My default preference is greater individual freedom with the least practical amount of government intrusion in our lives.

But the Covid scourge is historical. On vaccines, I part from libertarian-minded conservatives and align with active-government liberals. My conservative convictions have not changed. However, the natural right to individual liberty is overshadowed by the obvious and urgent communal benefits of vaccination compliance.

Weapons of Viral War

Americans have always put the needs of the nation first when faced with a deadly threat. We have put on uniforms and marched overseas, most honorably, to free others from tyranny. A viral enemy is invisible and omnipresent, but the dead are just as dead, and more numerous in US casualties. As of October 15, 2021, 741,893 Americans have died in the war against the Covid-19 virus. The vaunted Wehrmacht and the Imperial Japanese Army were less deadly.

Significant American Wars Deaths
Revolutionary War 25,000
Civil War 625,000
World War I 116,516
World War II 405,399
Vietnam 58,209
Combined Middle East Wars 7,165

In addition, we have many wounded, as in other wars. Nearly half the patients who were hospitalized experienced subsequent medical issues, as did 27% of those who had mild or moderate symptoms and 19% of people who reported no symptoms. These include pain, breathing difficulties, high cholesterol, malaise and fatigue, high blood pressure, and long-term cardiac disease. Some suffered intestinal symptoms, migraines, skin problems, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Taken together these maladies have a name: “long Covid.” Some are lifelong. Estimates are that over half a million Americans suffer one or more of these symptoms. If we are at war against a viral enemy, what weapons do we have?

The Miracle of Modern Medicine

The heroes of this war are the thousands of scientists that struggled mightily over the last 40 years to produce therapies and vaccines, especially since AIDS was identified in 1981. HIV-AIDS was a particularly tough nut to crack, and enormous resources in money and manpower were invested. Today, HIV is a manageable condition and not life-threatening when treatment is available. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, identified in 2003, launched another round of antiviral research. SARS, also a coronavirus, taught our scientists much about the genome. These decades of intense vaccine research produced an army of trained scientists and a vast body of sophisticated medical knowledge.

When Covid-19 was loosed upon the world in 2019, the scientists were not starting from zero, far from it. Many vaccine strategies were well understood, and many had been tried and tested before Covid-19. Soon after Covid-19 appeared in late 2019, several Covid vaccines entered trials.

The Trump administration wisely decided, after highly successful trials, that provisional approval of the new vaccines was better than watching CNN’s right-side-of-the-picture “death counter” go up by thousands each day. By the grace of God and the skill of our scientists, we have the tools to save almost everyone from Covid.  One cannot say enough in tribute to the brave frontline doctors and nurses who risked their lives treating Covid patients during the most terrifying months of the pandemic as well.

With 6.5 billion doses administered globally, the data is in plain sight and easily understood. For example, the nation with the highest compliance is Portugal. The Portuguese have trouble finding more people to vaccinate, and the result is conclusive. When the Delta variant hit Portugal it barely made a ripple.

Direct and Indirect Costs of the Unvaccinated

Conservative media voices such as Tucker Carlson, Dan Bongino, and Dennis Prager are misinformed and mistaken when making assertions such as: if the unvaccinated can’t harm the vaccinated, then the unvaccinated should be allowed unencumbered access to society and not be pressured to be vaccinated.

The unvaccinated hurt not only themselves, they hurt everyone. They crowd our emergency rooms and, at hospitals near me, take up available hospital beds. Operations for non-Covid conditions are delayed because there is no room in the hospital or they are seriously short-staffed.

The unvaccinated are bleeding us all economically as well. The Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker monitors health care costs in the US. They estimate that preventable hospitalizations for unvaccinated Covid-19 patients have cost our health system $5.7 billion for June, July, and August 2021. Because the vast majority of hospitalizations for Covid, particularly the most serious and expensive cases, continue to be the unvaccinated, the total will grow much larger.

Where does the money come from? Inevitably, it will come from each of us as the insurance companies recoup their losses by raising rates. Even if covered by an employer, the company will be forced to adjust to increased healthcare costs by cutting payroll, delaying salary increases, or raising prices. Government insurance programs will be stretched thinner than they already are. Nearly 72% of the largest health plans will no longer waive cost sharing for Covid. It is clear we will all pay for the unvaccinated in the form of higher insurance premiums for years to come.

How many small businesses have closed because of Covid? How many bookstores, orchestras, playhouses, and restaurants are out of business…forever? How many airlines, hotels, and cruise lines have laid off staff? No doubt we are all aware of streets with empty storefronts that once housed the charming small shops and restaurants we loved best. Owners gave years of their lives and invested all they had in those businesses. Most could have been saved if the unvaccinated 25% had recognized they had a duty to limit the damage to society.

The Unvaccinated’s Rationale is Wrong

Robert Malone is one of the discoverers of mRNA technology used in the vaccines and, curiously, an avatar of the antivaxxers. He seems piqued that he is not given enough credit for his pioneering role and is on a campaign to malign Covid vaccines. If you had any doubts about the vaccines, he will frighten you more than the possibility of a cytokine storm in your lungs. He talks about imperfect “leaky” vaccines, potential birth defects, poultry super spreader viruses, and the risks of “incomplete” knowledge.

I found none of his arguments compelling, beginning with the “incomplete” knowledge canard. We have a great deal of knowledge after all three phases of trials and a world in which 3.6 billion people have had one dose and 2.7 billion have had two. We also know that millions of lives have been saved, which is disheartening only to Malone and the mortuary industry. Just when, pray tell, will there be “complete” knowledge?

He says, “We cannot vaccinate our way out of the pandemic.” He’s wrong. The virus may never be eradicated, we still have flu, but it will recede to a level much below a pandemic. There may be future localized “outbreaks” for which the vaccine is still the best defense. With the introduction of new drugs for treating the disease, we will learn to manage the risks and life will return to normal.   

Finally, Malone asserts that the US Constitution guarantees that, “The rights of the collective do not outweigh the rights of the individual.” That’s another blanket statement that is not always true. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 1905, the Supreme Court ruled that Cambridge, MA, could fine citizens $5 (a lot of money at the time) for refusing to get a smallpox vaccine. My state, Washington, will ticket you if you refuse to wear a helmet on a motorcycle or drive without a seatbelt fastened. Repeat violations, like any other traffic law, could result in loss of driving privileges.

The Antivaxxer movement is, to my mind, driven by popular delusions. For example, there are many who believe there is a connection between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine and autism. There are a dozen studies in the US, UK, Canada, Denmark, and Finland designed to prove or disprove this hypothesis. All of the studies demonstrated there is no connection. Yet the delusion persists.

I believe getting the vaccination is in keeping with the conservative foundational precept that you may do as you please as long as you respect the lives and property of others, what Locke referred to as a “natural law.” The unvaccinated are failing this test because they are doing immense harm to all of us.

It’s time to be like Portugal, get vaccinated, and get life back to normal. Enough!

See more articles by Robert Wilkes here.

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Robert Wilkes
Senior Correspondent at Divided We Fall

Robert Wilkes, Senior Correspondent at Divided We Fall, is the former president/creative director of Wilkes Creative, a national branding and marketing company. Robert flew 100 combat missions in Vietnam as a Navy attack pilot. He spent ten years in engineering and marketing at Boeing, where his writing skills were called upon for technical papers, marketing assignments, and speeches for Boeing executives. As an activist in pro-Israel politics, he lobbied with AIPAC for 15 years where he met many congressmen and senators from both parties. Robert loves history, enjoys the craft of writing, and has a passion for civil debate. He resides in Bellevue, Washington.

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