Columnists, Coronavirus, Mike Rosen, National, Politics

Rosen: There’s no vaccine for irrationality

Hindsight is 20-20.  If we knew then what we know now, we’d have done things differently in combating COVID; that is, if you’re one who relies more on reason than fear, emotion and politics.  Given the uncertainty of this novel virus, most elected officials, politicians, government bureaucrats and media outlets predictably overreacted and imposed or advocated for draconian precautions and restrictions on the public, lest they be blamed for the death toll.

Viruses are an inescapable reality of life on this planet.  Dr. Neil Shubin, a professor of biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago, explains that we live in a perpetual “state of war between viral invaders and our own genome.“  He calculates that there are more viruses on Earth than stars in the known universe.  They’re part of our DNA and immune system and, like it or not, an essential factor in evolutionary change.

The current COVID death toll is about 600,000 in the U.S.  Among a population of 330 million, that means that two people in one thousand have died after contracting the virus.  Death has occurred overwhelmingly among the elderly, many of whom had co-morbidities that would have taken their lives from other causes during the period or soon after.

By comparison, 500 hundred million died worldwide in the smallpox pandemic, and 400 million from the Bubonic Plague, wiping out 40% of Europe’s population.  This isn’t to trivialize COVID’s victims, whose deaths were a tragedy for them and their loved ones, but to place it in the perspective of sickness, disease, living and dying in our worldly existence.

The failure of policymakers to consider tradeoffs when irresponsibly locking down so much of our economy inflicted dramatic economic and mental health damage to the bulk of the 99.8% of Americans who didn’t die from the virus, including millions of schoolchildren whose educational foundation was severely compromised.

President Biden has been shamefully petty and dishonest in refusing to acknowledge the contribution of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed in bringing the COVID vaccines to Americans in unprecedented, record time.  Now, thankfully, in the final stages of COVID, the final hurdle is to achieve the well-established benefit of herd immunity by quickly increasing the percentage of those vaccinated to 75% and more.

A disturbingly large number of people refuse to be vaccinated on the basis of ignorance, fear or superstition.  Conventional vaccines in the past did inject a small dose of an actual virus into the body.  The new anti-COVID RNA vaccines do no such thing.  They employ a bio-technology that synthesizes encoded DNA in the lab.  When the vaccine is injected in your body, it causes cells to produce antigens to the immune system to fight the disease.  Vaccines have successfully protected multitudes from the scourge of smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, measles, shingles and pneumonia.

Tradeoffs are also relevant in regard to vaccines.  Historically, a new vaccine can take five years or more to develop and complete a regimen of clinical trials before being released to the public.  That entire process has been shortened to one year for the COVID vaccines.  While that accelerated timetable may increase the risk of undiscovered side effects, it’s protecting countless millions from the disease.  That’s a tradeoff.  Some holdouts have said they won’t take the vaccine until they’re absolutely sure it’s safe.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if they died from COVID while waiting for that certainty.

Drug ads on TV all include a voiceover rattling off a long list of possible side effects in rapid-speak.  When you take that drug, you’re making a risk vs. benefit tradeoff.  Here’s an example of the possible side effects of one such medication: gastric acid hyper-secretion, gastrointestinal irritation, persistent severe nausea, vomiting that looks like coffee grounds, slurred speech, tiredness, dizziness, dark urine, heartburn, abdominal pain with cramps, easy bruising and bleeding, hearing difficulty, ringing in the ears, kidney disorder, yellowing of the eyes and skin, sudden vision changes, severe headaches, rash, itching, swelling, and trouble breathing.  You may have taken that drug anyway.  It’s called aspirin.

There’s no doubt some people will have a negative reaction from a COVID vaccine — or any other, for that matter.  So, here’s a tradeoff decision model.  Is the probability of getting a seriously bad reaction to the vaccine lesser or greater than the probability of getting COVID, suffering through what could be weeks of discomfort, hospitalization, life-long health complications and possibly death?  Plus, you could be one of the handful that win a million bucks in the vaccine-incentive lottery — a really dopey waste of taxpayer dollars.

Incidentally, there’s no vaccine for irrationality.

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.

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