This past weekend I had an email exchange with a man who refuses to get a Covid vaccine.

He initiated the exchange when he wrote to say he was offended by my describing the reasons people refuse to be vaccinated in a previous blog as “the stupid.” He assured me his position was carefully thought out and based on good evidence.

For example, he said that according to the CDC more than 15,000 people had died from the vaccines.

Not true, but he believes it is because he didn’t understand the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Effects Report System) page on the CDC website. As I have written before, VAERS is simply a platform established by the CDC in 1990 for people to post anecdotal stories of adverse vaccine events, none of which the CDC ever verifies. It only monitors these posts to see if any discernible patterns of adverse effects from different people’s experience show up that warrant CDC follow-up.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, about the VAERS posting should be used as facts or reliable information, but when I pointed this out to him it had no impact. Instead, he switched the subject to other sources, all of which produce disinformation he believes is true.

The Children’s Health Defense organization was one, founded by Joseph Kennedy, Jr. whose anti-vaccine extremism is well documented, including the fact that it is based on research done by British doctor, Andrew Wakefield, falsely connecting rubella measles vaccine with autism. Wakefield’s work was later proven to be fraudulent and he was removed from the British Medical Registry. He continues to be embraced by anti-vaccers such as Kennedy.

No one knows who is behind the Swiss Policy Research website my email debater also likes. What we do know is that it minimizes the dangers of Covid-19 and promotes conspiracy theories including QAnon being an FBI psyop effort to manipulate the public.

America’s Frontline Doctors is another of his sources, a right-wing disinformation group founded by Dr. Simone Gold, a Los Angeles physician who was later arrested during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

I tried to explain that these groups were sources of vaccine disinformation rather than reliable facts. Once again, it didn’t matter. He said he didn’t trust the Covid vaccines anyway because none of them has been given final authority. When I asked why he would say that he said the FDA itself says the Pfizer vaccine has not been given final approval, that instead a drug named Comirnaty nobody knows anything about was what got approved.

I told him that he was confused, that the FDA website says quite explicitly that Comirnaty is the marketing name for the Pfizer vaccine, that they are in fact one and the same. His come back was that it didn’t matter because people can still get the virus after being vaccinated, which he was convinced proved that they don’t really work anyway.

I thought perhaps the following data might make him see that the vaccines are actually proving to be amazingly effective:  (1) At the height of the pandemic more than 3500 Americans were dying each day from Covid, but once the vaccines began to be administered the number had fallen to a few hundred deaths per day by June; (2) the people who are promoting disinformation about the vaccines such as Tucker Carlson on Fix News have all been vaccinated; (3) several conservative radio jocks who told people not to get vaccinated died of Covid this summer; (4) the decline in Covid cases changed by early summer when the Delta variant hit and we’re back up to 2000 deaths per day as of October 1, primarily among the unvaccinated; (5) the infection rate for people fully vaccinated (break-through cases) is 0.004%, and the death rate is even smaller – 0.001%.

I was wrong. The information had no impact. That’s when I realized something I think I had felt, but had not put into words. We are living in an age of nonsense.

I suppose it was inevitable once a third of the population decided that truth no longer matters, that the only thing that does is their constitutional right to believe whatever they want to no matter how false it is.

No wonder this man’s determination to remain unvaccinated made no sense to me. You cannot make sense of something when there is no sense to be made of it. It’s like trying to understand how up is down, in is out, good is bad, bad is good.

One good thing did come from my email conversation. It strengthened my resolve never to be like the unvaccinated.

I don’t want to be consumed with myself, with my rights, with my individual freedom, to the point where I refuse to make even the smallest sacrifice to help my country defeat a pandemic that has killed over 700,000 Americans of all ages and over four million people around the world.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who takes a hospital bed from someone who really needs it because I was too stubborn to get a shot that would have likely kept me out of the hospital in the first place.

I don’t want my grandchildren to think their grandfather is the kind of person who is anti- science, believes conspiracy theories, or shows no regard for the truth. How could they ever trust anything I tell them if that is who they think I am. Why should they?

No, I don’t ever want to be the kind of person the unvaccinated in this country are proving themselves to be.

It’s possible some of them have better reasons for not getting vaccinated than I’m giving them credit for, but at the end of the day the effect of their actions is the same.

Whatever they believe, whatever reasons they have for refusing to be vaccinated, they are still being selfish in putting others at risk, in giving the virus time to mutate even more, and in expecting doctors and nurses who have already sacrificed more than the rest of us to stop the pandemic to sacrifice even more by caring for them when they do get Covid.

Yes, they have the right to be that kind of person, and I have a responsibility to make sure I never am.