No vaccine can fill a vacancy in understanding

Nicholas Shelton, Managing Editor & Sports Editor

Well over a year ago, in January of 2020, we all had to begin adapting to the conditions that the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon the world. Now, one and a half years later, we find ourselves still in the midst of the pandemic. One and a half years later we find ourselves still combating new variants. And, while we have shown great resilience against the virus, we also find that something is missing. Something that we had before it all began has now been lost, we lack the compassion and understanding for one another that we once had. 

The truth is that no one wants people to die from COVID-19; they just want to be able to make a decision that is right for them. The former leader of the now apparent “anti-science” right, former President Donald Trump, was the creator of the governmental “warp speed” program that created the first vaccine. Originally, the left was hesitant to take a vaccine created by Trump but have a problem with hesitancy from the right wing now under the Biden administration. 

“If Donald Trump tells us that we should take it (the vaccine), I’m not taking it,” Vice-President Kamala Harris said during the 2020 presidential election. 

The President of the United States mandated the vaccine for many citizens just hours after Vice President Harris said, “When people are able to design their lives in a way that they can determine their own futures, we are a stronger democracy and we are a stronger nation. When people are able to make choices without government interference for themselves in terms of their well-being and the well-being of their family in consultation with whomever they choose, we are a stronger society.” 

It started with a recommendation to take the vaccine, then incentives to take it and disincentives for not taking it. Now, it is gradually becoming less and less of an option because we as a country can no longer seem to have a discussion and accept people’s rights to autonomy. In the United States, we live in a democracy not a technocracy,  where we are supposed to be able to freely express our opinions. 

The slightest mention of COVID-19 on Instagram will generate a warning about misinformation placed on the post or story. On Twitter or Facebook, anything the technology behemoths decide is misinformation can get one banned. Large companies such as Google and Twitter, along with government bureaucrats, now have a monopoly on truth. 

Earlier this month, for example, a Rutgers student named Logan Hollar was barred from attending virtual classes from his own home, 70 miles off campus, because he had not yet been vaccinated. 

“I find it concerning for the vaccine to be pushed by the university rather than my doctor,” Hollar said in an interview with “If someone wants to be vaccinated, that’s fine with me, but I don’t think it should be pushed.”

Any logical person would have to question the sense behind a decision such as this, and yet if you do it publicly, you risk being banned from social media and the government may attempt to ostracize you. 

Another example of this is earlier last week when a mother and her two-year-old asthmatic child were kicked off a flight because the two-year-old child wouldn’t comply with the flight’s mask policy. Yet, once again, cases like these can not be questioned. 

We now live in a system where you either unquestionably trust the government and the “experts” or you will be punished or repudiated. They are taking away our ability to make our own choices for our health, and they want to take away our right to autonomy. 

The NBA is now forcing all their players to get the vaccine with risk of not receiving their full pay if they do not comply. Many NBA players are sceptical about the vaccine, such as Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors and seven-time all-star Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets. Both have been threatened with losing a large percentage of money from their “guaranteed” contracts. 

Wiggins’ teammate and former defensive player of the year, Draymond Green, was questioned on the NBA’s “Media Day” about his opinion on Wiggins not getting the vaccine. His response was very insightful into the minds of those who find the government’s attitude towards the vaccine to be alarming. 

“When you make something (the vaccine) so political, and not everyone is into politics, then you can turn people off,” Green said. “I think there is something to be said for people’s concern for something that is being pushed so hard. I think you have to honor people’s feelings and their own personal beliefs, and I think that has been lost.”

Individuals like CNN’s Don Lemon and MSNBC’s Joy Reid are now even going as far to say that we should shame the unvaccinated. 

“I think we have to stop coddling people when it comes to … the vaccines, oh you can’t shame them, you can’t call them stupid, yes they are,” Lemon said last week. “The people who are not getting the vaccines, who are believing the lies on the internet instead of science, it’s time to start shaming them or leaving them behind.”

There are many reasons why people would be hesitant towards getting the vaccine just how the left was hesitant when former President Donald Trump was in office. Dr. Anthony Fauci wrote in February 2020 that store-bought face masks would not be very effective at protecting against the COVID-19 pandemic and advised people to not wear them. Israel has reached an all time high in new cases even though well over 50% of its citizen population is fully vaccinated. A study conducted in July of this year showed that 75% of individuals infected by the Delta variant outbreak in Massachusetts were already fully vaccinated. People have many concerns about the vaccine such as the following: booster shots becoming mandatory even after being fully vaccinated, vaccine efficacy decreasing after six months, personal health concerns, the vaccine reducing symptoms but not preventing acquisition of the virus or transmission of the virus to others, vaccine companies taking advantage of governmental incentives such as Pfizer’s testing of a new twice a day COVID-19 pill, an FDA board of advisors voting overwhelmingly that the risks do not outweigh the benefits for booster shots for individuals under the age of 17, possibility of adverse effects and a possible increased risk of myocarditis. 

All these concerns and people’s decision on whether or not to take the vaccine need to be respected, but we have been seeing much less of that respect being given as of late. 

Gibson Southern students, for example, may be questioning what incentive there is to take the vaccine when all students are required to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. The stated goal of the school’s mask mandate was to help with contact tracing to reduce quarantining among students. Gibson Southern stated that due to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order, masks would be required for all students, but Governor Holcomb did not mandate masks. Holcomb’s new executive order simply said that if students are required to wear masks, then quarantine requirements would be eased for that school. If you show no symptoms and are vaccinated, however, then you would not need to quarantine regardless. This is causing some students at Gibson Southern to question what incentive there is to take the vaccine.

“I do not think this policy makes sense,” senior Gage Schoenheit said. “There’s no point in getting the vaccine if you still have to wear a mask.” 

It would, however, be impossible for the school corporation to know the vaccine status of each individual student due to medical confidentiality, but it is still a legitimate cause for vaccine hesitancy among students.

It seems that in these times, far removed from the beginning of the pandemic, we have shown that we are able to adapt quickly to the changing times. Unfortunately not all those changes may be reversible, and among them is our ability to be compassionate and understanding towards one another, which has begun to fade in recent months.  

“I think COVID-19 has separated people, and I think it has (divided the country) because people think of it so politically,” senior Kendall White said.

The pandemic may be able to be stopped by a vaccine, but the void that our lack of sympathy and compassion for one another has left may not be able to be mended so easily. Where has our understanding for one another gone and can we ever get it back?