Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks to reporters at the White House in April 2020. In the background are President Donald Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator (White House pool photo)
JAMIL RAGLAND
JAMIL RAGLAND

After the initial success of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, a sense of worry has set in. There has been a noticeable drop-off in the number of people who are receiving the vaccine. The New York Times recently ran a headline declaring that herd immunity looked “unlikely” in the immediate future due to new variants and vaccine hesitancy. Popular cable show “Last Week Tonight” even dedicated most of a recent episode to debunking myths about the vaccine. 

I know a lot of people who are not eager to receive the COVID vaccine. They aren’t “low information” people or doubters of science or QAnon sleeper agents. They’re people who have simply paid attention to the inconsistencies of experts over the last couple of decades and their refusal to accept accountability.

Americans are being asked to take the word of people who have consistently misled them, without that reality being acknowledged. It’s farcical that anyone would take former Vice President Mike Pence at his word when he described the vaccine as “safe and effective” six months after he denied the presence of a second wave of coronavirus. Yet Republicans do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy here. Remember the Democrats’ promise of $2,000 survival checks should they win the Senate? We ended up with $1,400. That’s a lie, and it erodes the credibility of Democratic leaders saying the vaccine is safe.

But the biggest source of doubt behind the efficacy of modern medicine has come from medical professionals themselves. Americans have watched over 400,000 people die from the opioid crisis that continues to silently ravage the country, including 50,000 in 2019. This staggering loss of life flowed directly from the very same people who are now urging Americans to take the COVID vaccine: pharmaceutical companies that put profits before people; doctors who over-prescribed these medications; and political leaders who deregulated medical advertising and other safeguards to allow these substances to be directly marketed to Americans. 

Another major issue is that our medical leaders straight up lie to the American people, and then admit as much. For all the accolades that Dr. Anthony Fauci has received as director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it is a matter of record that he told Americans not to wear masks at the beginning of the pandemic.

When asked about this later, Dr. Fauci explained, “I don’t regret anything I said then because in the context of the time in which I said it, it was correct. We were told in our task force meetings that we have a serious problem with the lack of PPEs and masks for the health providers who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day to take care of sick people.”

This is not a matter of adjusted guidance based on new information about the virus. A leading doctor told Americans not to wear masks instead of trusting people with the truth about shortages. Why are people surprised that some Americans now don’t believe experts who have hid the truth from them?

If our leaders want Americans to feel comfortable getting the vaccine, then they need to move beyond celebrity endorsements and attacking the intelligence of doubters. They need to do the hard work of admitting that mistakes have been made, and show Americans that their words can be trusted. That begins with admitting a simple fact: they haven’t always told the truth, even during the pandemic. Vaccine hesitancy is not a crisis of science. It’s a crisis of faith in our leaders.

Jamil Ragland writes and lives in East Hartford. You can read more of his writing at www.nutmeggerdaily.com.

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