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Friday, July 30, 2021


I have been appalled, angered, mystified, and frustrated by the belligerent refusal of so many Americans – even healthcare workers – to get vaccinated. Their behavior puts me in mind of the fire insurance marks or plaques that were posted on insured buildings in the 18th and 19th centuries in England, America, and elsewhere. These plaques, which are now collector’s items, once played a very important role. Their function was to tell private fire companies which houses had paid insurance with them and ought therefore to be protected when fire broke out. It is literally the case that a horse-drawn fire engine would ride out during a fire and pass by burning buildings until the firefighters came to a building exhibiting a plaque of their company.


The idiots declaring their independence by refusing to get vaccinated or wear masks quite comfortably and unthinkingly expect hospitals to admit them and care for them should they contract the virus.


I quite understand that it is morally unacceptable for me to wish that hospitals would turn them away when they show up needing admittance to an intensive care unit and expensive high-tech medical care for the disease they have wantonly refused to protect themselves against. But still, but still.


Howard B said...

Dear Professor Wolff

Though your outrage is mine too, let's think of some of the reasons for people acting so outrageously.
One big factor, I think, is that in America people have sovereignty over their lives and that means most of the time they get to decide what reality or their reality is like
They are not doing a good job of it.
Part of freedom means they or we are in charge of the show and many peple unfortunately aren't ready for prime time.
People abuse their freedom, and as a result they lose their lives

s. wallerstein said...

One of the advantages of living in a country where no one understands English is that whenever I come across a group of people without masks blocking the sidewalk blowing smoke everywhere, forcing me to descend from the sidewalk into the street, which is not so easy for a 75 year old man carrying two heavy grocery bags, I can calmly say, "you assholes are so fucking inconsiderate of others that I hope you all die of Covid".

R McD said...

It's not just in the US, Howard B. Because my daughter is a doctor in Australia, i follow what's happening there. Most recently see, e.g.,

But back to my point, my daughter tried from the very emergence of the pandemic to get even some among her medical colleagues to take it seriously, to sign on to protocols her clinic would observe when treating patients, etc., pretty much to no avail. Whether she'll stay in medicine, I don't know. But I do know she's very disenchanted with the behaviour of the public, the politicians who, as in the US, have been making strange decisions, and her colleagues.

I think I'm in accord with RPW when I say I don't have much sympathy left for those who lose their lives by abusing their freedom. I can't forgive them for so selfishly bringing misery and death to others.

Maybe a more effective way to go than abuing them verbally in a language they don't understand, we should start coughing and spluttering all over them? We oldsers should be quite good at that.

Ridiculousicculus said...

Characterizing the anti-vaxxing issue as one of belligerent Americans asserting their "independence" makes it sound like the anti-vaxxing "problem", such as it is, is an ethical problem that can be blamed on recalcitrant anti-vaxxers.

But it's not an ethical problem - it's a credibility problem. And the parties responsible for that credibility problem are the US Government and Big Pharma, not anti-vaxxers.

The people I know who are refusing to get vaccinated (1) don't trust the government or the things government and government-endorsed scientists say about COVID and the safety of vaccines; and (2) don't trust pharmaceutical companies and the things pharmaceutical companies say about the novel and experimental vaccines that they created in one year and want us all to inject in our arms.

Given the US government's track record of lying to the public about, well, everything, I don't have much to say to people who refuse to get jabbed simply because the US government told them to do so. If they tell me they don't believe the government or its scientists, I can't blame them.

And given the pharmaceutical industry's record of lying to the public about, well, everything, and especially the purported "safety" of commercial narcotics like oxycontin that created a full-blown (and ongoing) opioid epidemic in red states, I don't have much to say to people who refuse to get jabbed simply because Big Pharma insists the vaccines are safe. If they tell me they don't believe Big Pharma, I don't blame them. Just look at the settlements:

It's easy to blame the know-nothings for the ongoing public health crisis. But there's plenty of blame to go around.

David Palmeter said...

In the retirement community we live in, we’re again required to wear masks outside our apartments because of the rise of the Delta virus and the fact that 50% of our staff refuse to be vaccinated. I’m infuriated by it.

This argument about liberty and freedom is nonsense. We do not have the freedom to inflict harm on other people. We have the liberty to get as drunk as we want in the privacy of our own homes, but we don’t have a right to drive on the public roads in that condition.

One disease after another has been conquered or controlled by vaccine; small pox, polio, measles, yellow fever and more. If people had acted the same way when the Salk/Sabin vaccines arrived in the late 1950s, our summer conversation would largely be about polio and iron lungs, as it was when I was a kid.

George Washington—George Washington!—required the troops at Valley Forge to get vaccinated for small pox if they had not had the disease already.

I’m infuriated by these selfish, selfish people who are killing many of their fellow citizens and imposing unnecessary hardship and risk on all of us.

Howard B said...

Dear Ridiculous

It is not an ethical problem
I think people have autonomy. It is psychology not ethics
People do things for a reason.
America is not an army where people do what they are commanded.
People are willing to be persuaded into what they want to believe. They let Trump and Fox and et al mislead them
You can't blame the resistance to vaccines and masking on Trump or Fox, because the actual rationalization happens in people's minds
I think people have agency even when it is being subverted
If they are slaves, they are slaves who chose their own masters.
I do not blame them as morally wrong I just criticize their foolishness.
They do not want to believe the vaccines work and even if I grant you that they are just listening to Trump or Fox or social media it is a vehicle of their self assertion and autonomy and not to sound existentialist, but people ultimately believe what they want to believe. They have agency and their resistance to vaccines is an assertion of their agency and I'd say even if Fox and the social media are feeding them lies any con man preys on what their dupes and marks want to believe

Another Anonymous said...

During the AIDS epidemic, some states made it a criminal offense for an infected individual to have sexual intercourse without informing the partner that s/he had AIDS.

While many states would reject such a solution with respect to the COVID epidemic, and the Trump idiots would undoubtedly raise hell that a comparable measure would be infringing on their freedom to infect their neighbors, the more progressive states, e.g., California and New York, could enact criminal statutes requiring that all individuals who have been vaccinated carry their vaccination cards with them and authorizing the police to require those who are not wearing masks in public to produce their vaccination cards. If a person refuses, or admits they have not been vaccinated, they would face a stiff jail sentence and a fine.


What you have written is utter nonsense and stupidity. The government does not Lie "about almost everything." In any case, the statistics show the the rise in infections is occurring almost exclusively in the population of unvaccinated individuals. The anti-vaxxers, who are also refusing to have their children vaccinated for chickenpox and whooping cough, are idiotic ideologues given to conspiracy theory mongering. And you, who from previous posts have claimed to be a superior intellect, are as stupid as they are.

James Wilson said...

Yhere's a parallel discussion going on at Crooked Timber:

Ridiculousicculus said...

For the record, I've never claimed to be a "superior intellect" on this blog or any other.

But I do recall many instances of Mark Susselman being told to kick rocks by commentators and Professor Wolff. For example:

I'll leave it to those with psychiatric expertise to explain the pathology that causes a grown man to insist on hanging around in an environment where they are not wanted and have been told to leave.

s. wallerstein said...

Let say the U.S. government always or generally lies. Let's say that a lot of the pro-vaccine propaganda comes from a conspiracy of Bill Gates, CNN and Pfizer, who are all in it for the money.

The problem is that every government in the world is vaccinating its population. Is Putin part of the Bill Gates conspiracy? Are the Chinese? Is Miguel Diaz Canel (the new Cuban dictator)? Yes, they're using other vaccines, but they are all producing Covid vaccines as fast as they can.

Michael said...

Howard B: Your comment seems to show a reluctance to regard anyone involved in this issue (whether anti-vaxxers themselves, or the anti-vax media/politicians etc. who exploit and encourage them) as deserving of moral criticism for their actions. At the same time, there still seem to be traces of moral criticism in your comment: You use the ethically-loaded term "con men" and describe yourself as criticizing anti-vaxxers for their foolishness (which I presume is different from merely alerting someone to an intellectual error, as e.g. on a math exam). Overall I find your comment confusing.

It's justified to be angry with the anti-vaxxers and their enablers, though (as with any wrong-doers) it tends toward the "waste of energy" category to aggressively blame and attack them - I'll give you that. The best we can do is to try, where non-futile (probably a minority of cases) to rationally persuade them*; and more importantly, go into damage-control mode on a public/personal safety level. Debate and advocate policies which minimize the harm these people can cause, non-coercively if possible/appropriate... (A vague cop-out on my part, but I can't claim to offer better than that.)

I didn't think Ridiculousicculus's comment was utter nonsense and stupidity, though I will say it comes quite close to downplaying what a leap it'd be from "Big Pharma and the US government are frequently untrustworthy" to "It's not unreasonable for people to suppose that Big Pharma and the US government are in the wrong when they urge people to get vaccinated."

To echo s. wallerstein's comment: If Big Pharma and the US government were the only ones urging people to get vaccinated, and if their position were obviously at odds with more credible voices (like the greater scientific community), then the anti-vaxxers would be easier to sympathize with; or, it'd at least be more understandable that someone wouldn't want to vilify them.

*This might be a somewhat helpful piece: FiveThirtyEight: Partisanship Isn't The Only Reason Why So Many Americans Remain Unvaccinated -

"So, to recap: Americans sure are a complicated bunch. But there's still hope for getting more people vaccinated. PRRI found that about half of those who were hesitant about getting the vaccine were more likely to get it after hearing that it would help protect human life, help protect the most vulnerable people in their community or allow them to safely visit family and friends. And according to KFF's June survey, some other changes might also encourage more people to get vaccinated, including implementing vaccine lotteries (already used by some states), using mobile vaccine units in undervaccinated neighborhoods and providing free child care during the vaccination and recovery process."

Ridiculousicculus said...

s. wallerstein - I don't think anti-vaxxers in general are refusing to take the vaccine because they believe Bill Gates and CNN and Pfizer are part of a grand conspiracy to make money off a hopelessly naive populace (although I'm sure that some anti-vaxxers believe that). After all, most of these people are already convinced that the Fed creates money out of thin air and funnels it to corporate interests - which isn't necessarily untrue.

The arguments I hear are more along the lines of: "CDC and State guidance has gone back and forth on masks, vaccine efficacy for reducing infection rates, and lockdowns so many times that we don't have any reason to believe the CDC or the State anymore. And Big Pharma lies about everything and kills people and then pays out billion dollar settlements to cover their asses, so we don't have any reason to believe Big Pharma either. Also, the COVID lockdowns destroyed my friends' and family's businesses and the economic damage from that was worse for them than catching COVID probably would have been. So forget the government and the pharmaceutical companies, I'll just roll the dice with the virus and not shove some experimental vaccine into my arm that might kill me later like getting addicted to oxycontin would have, thanks."

Is that the best argument? Of course not. But it's a reasonable enough argument given the circumstances for me to be reluctant to ascribe immorality to the folks who make it.

Another Anonymous said...

Ah, Gee, Ridiculousicculus, you’ve hurt my feelings.

And one might wonder about the maturity of a grown man (?) who uses the pseudonym “Ridiculousicculus” and expects to be taken seriously.

David Palmeter said...

"CDC and State guidance has gone back and forth on masks, vaccine efficacy for reducing infection rates, and lockdowns so many times that we don't have any reason to believe the CDC or the State anymore.” (Ridiculousicculus)

“When the facts change, I change my mind - what do you do, sir?” (Keynes)

s. wallerstein said...

Part of common sense intelligence is understanding when certain institutions and certain public figures lie and when they don't.

Sure, the New York Times will lie about the nature of the capitalist system, but will they deliberately lie about the danger and effectiveness of certain vaccines?

Sure, the Mayo Clinic website may lie or exaggerate when they suggest that you need certain laboratory tests (available at the Mayo Clinic) if your hands feel cold, but will they deliberately lie about the danger and effectiveness of certain vaccines?

Even people who will protect their class interests (like the New York Times) or are in it for the money (like the Mayo Clinic) have a certain ethical code and it's up to your common sense to have an idea of what that code may be. Trump has no ethical code at all and will lie about anything, but will Fauci? Will name physicians from Harvard Medical School? I don't think so.

Another Anonymous said...


Great quote. I will have to add it to my lexicon of favorite quotations.

LFC said...

This is just a neutral -- in the sense of non-polemical -- note that one should approach getting the vaccine with some deliberation and thought.[*] E.g., read relevant material (including but not nec. limited to the companies' own fact sheets), think about it, maybe consult with a doctor or someone else, etc. You'd think this might be common sense, but in the general commotion it can be kind of easy to not really do it, I think. (I'm speaking from personal experience, but I'm not going to elaborate.)

[*] I'm assuming most readers of this blog live in wealthier countries where vaccine supply is not an issue. Equity, or rather lack thereof, in global distribution of the vaccine is a separate matter.

Howie said...


I tried to use language that would appeal to your sensibilities.
I guess that everything has an ethical dimension.
I just start from the observation that people especially in the home of the free and in a hegemonic power losing its grip who are used to being in charge of their lives and having agency would hold onto that no matter what including for voting for a piece of shit like Trump and including killing themselves.
You speak of facts and reach conclusions but you're neglecting human psychology that is so obvious and which you'd be advised to at least consider.
I am arguing from psychological principles rather than sleep walking as you are and others in this blog are and I'd prefer to judge what is reckless and pathological behavior from a psychological perspective.
Ask yourself what makes these people who don't want to get vaccinated and want to vote tick, maybe you'll come up with your own answers but you ought to bracket the chatter online- people are confused and afraid and don't understand psychology even though they are human, oddly

Michael said...

I still find it hard to see what your overall position is, and would appreciate it if you'd leave out the insults ("sleepwalking"), but anyway...

You "guess that everything has an ethical dimension." I think I would tend to agree, but I'm not 100% sure what I'd be agreeing to. Is "everything" a person does subject to ethical evaluation? Common sense says no. Many of the things we do are nothing more than matters of taste, habit, inclination, etiquette, etc., at least at first blush; but, we are occasionally surprised when something that we place in these categories turns out to be morally controversial after all. (A few examples: Some people would think nothing of the fact that a person consumes meat, whereas others believe in an obligation to be vegetarian. Some people would think nothing of the fact that a person prefers not to date outside their race, whereas others would call that sexual racism. Some people would think nothing of the fact that a person regards classical music as artistically superior to pop, whereas others would call that classism. Not arguing that any of these stances are correct.)

Be all that as it may, it'd hardly seem controversial, IMO, to say that a person's refusal to vaccinate is not a morally neutral decision. The sensible opinion as far as I can tell is that everyone who can safely and feasibly get vaccinated ought to get vaccinated, because the refusal to do so exacerbates the threat the virus poses to human life and well-being; and this is, or ought to be, common knowledge at this point. To persist in refusal and denial is culpably dangerous, even if a person's psychology makes it quite unlikely that they'll do anything else. (At worst, IMO, to speak of it as "culpably" dangerous is to say something certain philosophers might object to, while everyone else ignored them and rolled their eyes - and I suspect even these philosophers would sympathize with the eye-rolling!)

Now, I don't believe I've said anything that would be at odds with your (obviously correct) proposition that people's "reasons" or rationalizations for refusal can mostly likely be investigated and understood from the psychologist's standpoint; i.e., that people act in accordance with motives and beliefs that are partly reflective of individual temperament and partly reflective of social environment. Unless, that is, you take this proposition to nullify the whole business of ethically evaluating human action - which I don't think you do (partly because you aren't dismissing the idea that "everything has an ethical dimension") - but maybe I'm off? Again, I find the discussion confusing.

In other words, sure: There are, in principle, psychological explanations for people's refusal to vaccinate (and for everything else people do). But what's the point of this observation? Is it that someone who describes this refusal as morally blameworthy, is also someone who doesn't care about, or ignores the implications of, human psychology?

Danny said...

'I quite understand that it is morally unacceptable for me to wish'

This seems to be taking the notion of maintaining a positive self-image of an honest and moral individual about as far as honest people do, who engage in dishonest actions only to a limited extent, but actively search for flexible self-serving justifications for their misbehaving. Or, they remain unaware (i.e. ethically blind) of the moral repercussions of their actions. This is just a theory. I mentioned 'half' and half again, think it is likely that vaccines in general cause autism and that this vaccine in particular is being used by the government to microchip the population. Most Americans reject these theories, but only minorities of those who oppose their vaccinations do. Think here, of like the ideas that vaccines in general cause autism and that this vaccine in particular is being used by the government to microchip the population. Good reasons, for their decisions.

What else is puzzling? A third of eligible people aren't vaccinated. But that drops as you go up the age ladder. I read somewhere, that at least half the people who say they won’t get vaccinated believe at least one conspiracy theory about the Covid-19 vaccines or vaccines in general.

Anonymous said...

Be mad at yourselves for being misled into taking a mystery drug that is increasingly being proven to be worthless against covid in the long run, as well as dangerous. Oops.

David Zimmerman said...

"Mystery drug"?
"Worthless against cover in the long run"?

WTF are you talking about, Anonymous?

David Zimmerman said...

Should be "cover," not "cover"---- damn spell checker.

David Zimmerman said...

Should be "covid"


LFC said...

Upthread, ridiculoussiculus observed that big pharma and the govt have a "credibility" problem w some people. That's a reasonable empirical observation, even if not an esp good reason for most people not to get the vaccine.

But it's a big leap from there to Danny's remark, @10:43 a.m., that the belief that the govt is using the vaccine to "microchip the population" is a "good reason" for people not to get it. Anyone can gin up a "reason" for anything and proceed to tell himself or herself that it's "a good reason." But that doesn't make it so. Since the "belief" in question is completely unsupported by any evidence, it can't be a good reason for anything.

There are possibly some concerns about the vaccines -- e.g., the fact that the clinical trials to get the emergency use authorization were run on only tens of thousands (not, say, hundreds of thousands) of people, and that, as I understand it, they involved mostly healthy people (and not those with, e.g., autoimmune conditions) -- that might be at least reasonable to raise in a discussion. But this stuff about "microchipping the population" does not fall into that category. What does that even mean? Why wd the govt want to do it? Don't govt agencies already have enough problems just keeping track, e.g., of people's tax returns (we know there are tax cheaters who are never caught)? How wd "microchipping the population," whatever that means, help "the govt" do whatever it might legitimately (or even illegitimately) need to do? To answer that you need to have recourse to an elaborate "theory" at the level of Q Anon, where anything resembling evidence and logic goes out the window.

Anonymous said...

The goat never knows the use of his tail until the butcher cuts it off.

Yes, continue to trust your dear global technocrat / bigpharma / WHO leaders. And their media lackeys. When has that ever gone wrong for humanity before?

aaall said...

Anonymous, I believe you misunderstand the proverb. said...

Talk of goats, my dear Anonymous, always puts me in mind of the most stinky of barn-yard trolls.

F Lengyel said...
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F Lengyel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Palmeter said...

As I understand it,those of us who are vaccinated have great protection from the Delta virus, but if exposed to it we can become carriers and infect those who haven't been vaccinated. I've reached the point of impatience with the unvaccinated that I don't care if I infect them. Wearing a mask is drag and I'm tired of it. I have a hearing aid in one ear, a cochlear implant processor in the other ear, plus glasses. My ears aren't big enough to hold a mask with all the rest of that paraphernalia. I have a fear of losing the hearing aid or the processor--big bucks either way, and a more rational fear than those I've heard so far from the unvaccinated. Why should I have to wear a mask to protect those who won't protect themselves?

F Lengyel said...

Probably because if we don't find some accommodation with half of the country, we won't be able to confront climate change. That's all I've got. You have a point, DP.

marcel proust said...

I realized a day or so ago that those who oppose vaccination, masking and other efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic because freedom remind me of no one so much as the narrator in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. I have not reread it in lo these 40 years, but IIRC, the tone is similar in terms of peevishness, anger and general whining along the lines of "I don't wanna and you can't make me."

David Palmeter said...

I think it would be best if every vaccinated person refused to wear a mask. That would increase the rate infection among the unvaccinated, who would either (1) survive and add to herd immunity or (2) die and reduce the Republican vote in 2022 and 2024.

What’s not to like about that?

s. wallerstein said...


That's just a U.S. thing.

Wearing or not wearing a mask hasn't been politicized in Chile at all. I've never seen any studies on who wears masks in Chile, but my uneducated guess would be that less educated people don't wear masks, probably many of them don't vote either and if they vote, they vote for the left.

There's a leftist cultural center near my home and I've noticed that they don't wear masks there. When I talked once to the director of the center, he told me that he didn't vote at all because all politicians are corrupt and sell-outs and that any real change comes from below, from the revolutionary action of the masses. When I tried to suggest that the communist candidate for mayor, Iraci Hassler, was worth voting for, he indignantly and irritably rejected my suggestion. Hassler was elected by the way.

On the other hand, the core rightwing vote here is the wealthy, who tend to be well-educated, to use masks and be vaccinated.

aaall said...

DP, I've had similar thoughts but the drawback are the number of workers in service jobs who are unvaccinated. As I found out the second shot can have pretty strong effects. I'm retired but had I been employed I would have lost considerable work time. That being said, the areas in Missouri and Arkansas that are the hardest hit are usually over ninety percent white and very Republican, so there's that.

I find it interesting that as soon a the Prof. posts thoughts on vaccination we get a comment crying hard times for folks in denial.

Anonymous said...

Yea, wearing a mask is such a hardship but forcing vaccination onto everyone else because you're uncomfortable, nothing at all wrong with that.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

David Palmeter:
My kids and I call the often principled refusal to wear masks and get vaccinated the Darwin effect. An acquaintance of mine, a brewer with a college education, who told me in no uncertain terms that wearing a mask was an intolerable infringement on his liberty as were the governor's limits on crowd size and occupancy. I asked him if he had read Mill - no - so I suggested he read On Liberty or the Declaration of the Rights of Man (Sec. 4 if I remember right)and we could talk about it the next time I saw him. I have seen him, but he avoids talking to me. You are right about this. I would only add that the anti-mask, anti government emergency health orders has a healthy (?) dose of juvenile/infantile thought processes at work. One last thought - maybe you could organize a rent strike until the facility adopts serious prevention measure.

Take care and stay heathy...

aaall said...

Let's see, momentary discomfort and outrage because attitude = catching a highly infectious disease that might lead to hospitalization and a horrible death or leave one with a long term or lifetime disability.

Thank you Anonymous for clearing things up.

David Palmeter said...

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Covid19 can cause erectile dysfunction:

If this were in the headlines, some anti-vax minds might change. Pfizer apparently is not advertising this concern. No doubt they make far more money from Viagra than from the vaccine.

F Lengyel said...

It COVID-19 related ED isn't enough to quell any misgivings a fully vaccinated individual might have over not wearing a mask and possibly infecting obdurate anti-vaxxers (who lack a valid medical exclusion), then I give up.

DDA said...

@David Palmeter The Delta variant news is pretty bad. Breakthrough infections are not uncommon and even if mortality is negligible the effects can be severe. You'd be nuts to go maskless in public indoor spaces.

Sparks said...

I'm afraid I don't have the time to go through all the comments here, so forgive me if I bring nothing new to the discussion.

There's an aspect to all of this missed by the media--class. Access to transportation and/or the inability to take time off work, or to afford vaccination's limited but sometimes temporarily debilitating side-effects are bigger factors than one might expect. Similarly, many poor and working class people have limited access to information and no access to health services, and aren't aware that vaccination is free.

I could go on, but as you know from your own extensive work, Professor Wolff, poverty comes with a lot of hidden costs which the poor have trouble articulating and the better off take for granted.

Here's one article that I think does a decent job looking at one of the hidden barriers to vaccination:

There are other analyses out there, but I really must be going!

David Palmeter said...


All employees of the retirement community where I live were offered free vaccinations in February and March when CVS technicians visited to vaccinate anyone in the complex who wished to be vaccinated. All but three of the residents were vaccinated (the others,I was given to understand, had medical issues). Fewer than 50% of the staff chose to be vaccinated (free to them). Since then, free vaccination is available every Wednesday to any of the staff who wish to be vaccinated, and they may have time off with pay if they have any side effects. So far, only a few have chosen to vaccinated. The total is now slightly above 50%.

They're here. The vaccine is here. It's free. And they can get time off. Whatever is holding them back, it isn't lack of transportation or affordability, or access to the service or awareness that the vaccine is free.

F Lengyel said...
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Ridiculousicculus said...

David Palmeter - I don't know about your retirement community in particular, but the residential care industry in general makes money by exploiting the gap between the extremely high fees residents and their families are willing to pay for care and services, and minimum wage laws and economic conditions that allow facilities to pay employees next to nothing to provide the care and services that the elderly desperately need.

Working conditions at residential care facilities are notoriously awful, including terrible hours, lots of overtime, poor safety protocols, and demoralized and devalued staff - the majority of whom come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and who have little reason to trust the government, the news media, or their employers.

Which is all to say that if residents in retirement communities or skilled care facilities want "the help" to get vaccinated so that they don't need to wear masks anymore, then residents in retirement communities and skilled care facilities should consider lobbying management to pay their employees better - which might make the places less horrible to work in, and might encourage staff to get vaccinated at their employer's and resident's request.

David Palmeter said...


So if their pay was increased they would be more likely to get a free vaccination?

s. wallerstein said...

I agree that care workers should be paid more.

However, would higher pay make them more likely to trust those who tell them to get vaccinated?

There's an old Beatles song, "Can't buy me love" and I'd say that "Can't buy me trust" either.

Ridiculousicculus said...

Employees who are well treated are loyal to their employer, and more likely to respond positively to an enployer's requests - like getting vaccinated.

Badly treated employees don't care about what their employers "ask" them to do. They do the bare minimum for their bare minimum paychecks.

aaall said...

Ridiculousicculus, since your overly reductive explanation describes the way things have always been, how do you explain the eradication of smallpox and the the elimination of polio in many nations?

Danny said...

'it's a big leap from there to Danny's remark, @10:43 a.m., that the belief that the govt is using the vaccine to "microchip the population" is a "good reason" for people not to get it.'

But I was being sarcastic (you can't be blamed for not expecting nuance around here).

I actually, to be clear, figure there is culture-war nonsense or sheer stubbornness. But, on the other hand, Covid-19 has imposed its own subtle tyranny upon our lives for the past 18 months. people have been unable to find work, to meet family and friends, to go on dates and fall in love, to hold weddings and funerals, and to enjoy the full blessings of everyday life without risking their own health and the health of others. It seems, that Fox news can't get its story traight on COVID vaccines. Tucker Carlson has likened the shot to an authoritarian “social control” project. The question of Fox’s culpability in the pandemic has been raised early and often.

Danny said...

I see the stuff about America’s health-care workers, nurses and home health aides, the low pay and high workload. Take nursing homes. Supposing all of this, I speculate that so many people have been deterred from entering the industry. The fact that these jobs compensate people poorly and burn them out quickly means that health-care workers have been in short supply across the United States for years. I'm not sure what this has to do with whether pundits and policy makers have been looking at vaccine refusal all wrong, but there are plenty of things to be looking at all wrong.

Sparks said...

David Palmeter,

That's unfortunate, and a story I hear too often. In fact, I saw a clip on NBC news a few days ago-- an interview of four healthcare workers. Their responses were... Interesting, to remain tactful.

Here's a link to that if you're interested:

But back to the main topic. You offer an anecdote, and one I hear often, and which is in fact the focus of most media coverage. Certainly those people exist, but I want to discuss a broader, more systematic view, to which end I'd like to link some data to help clarify why I say what I say.

Here's the first piece.

As one would expect, and as I think common opinion here is, one factor in the current vaccination rate is the culture war. That, I believe, is fairly represented in the 34 point difference between Democrats and Republicans. But, alongside that contrast, we have a stark divide between the vaccination rate of Democrats as a whole on one side, and the rate of Hispanic, Black, and young people on the other.

Why is this latter divide interesting? Because these groups voted by significant margins for the Democrats ( a Pew analysis of the vote by demographic if needed).

You likely see where I'm going. Why entrenched Republicans refuse to listen to a Democratic president is no big puzzle (the culture war and the like). What needs explanation is why groups that lean Democratic have vaccination rates so much lower than the party average. One would be hard-pressed to reduce this divergence to brainwashing or misinformation by conservative media.

Luckily, we can just ask! If I may, I'll quote a passage from this article

"Lower-income people often work jobs that make it difficult to schedule time off for shots or recovery from side effects. They also face barriers like securing transportation to clinics, particularly in rural areas.

Closing income gaps means lowering barriers to access. Free transportation, paid time off, and financial incentives can all help, along with better messaging about the costs of vaccines. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to vaccination sites, and some companies are providing free child care during appointments and during recuperation, though these services aren’t available everywhere. 'Employers offering time off matters significantly,' Kirzinger said."

The article itself (which I recommend reading if you have the time!) gives a mixed view--there are a number of factors, and they vary between groups. But it's in that very diversity of factors that the article shines! As I suggested in my initial post, I think the media has largely glossed over the class element in favor of a kind of moralizing haranguing. But when the above article and data points are taken into account, I think a more robust, systematic view arises. To state it tersely and in one sentence, the extreme wealth inequality in the US shows its pernicious head in myriad ways--of which this is one.

(Continued next post)

Sparks said...

And one more data point bears this out, I believe (from the same article):


If I'm right, if class differences and the struggles that come with being on the lower rung are partly responsible, we would expect to see lower vaccination rates in lower income brackets. That is indeed what we see!

You might fairly ask, "Well, what's your point? There are a number of factors, and of course class is one of them, but why single it out?" My reason is simple: Republicans are Too Far Gones. There is very little besides the hard, long-term work of changing minds that will make them get vaccinated (or at least the half of them that refuse). But where we can make concrete changes is in the circumstances faced by those on "our side". And the first step is shifting how we frame the problem--from a moral problem, about which we can do little, to a logistical one, which we can concretely affect.

I'm out of time again I'm afraid, but I hope that clarifies my stance a little.

I see that there are other posts here, but since none are directly addressed to me, I'll leave them for now.

Another Anonymous said...

The people who comment on this blog generally represent the better read, better educated segment of our population.

By my count, 11 of the commenters fully endorsed being vaccinated and condemned those who refuse to be vaccinated as being selfish and endangering the lives of others.

However, 6 of the commenters either opposed being vaccinated, or expressed opinions which were sympathetic with those who refuse to be vaccinated as having justifiable reasons for not doing so. That’s 35.3% of the commenters on this thread, which I regard as rather high.

If there is such significant opposition to science and rational thought on a blog such as this, on a subject that seems so obvious for the 11 who endorse vaccination, what hope is there for us to take measures to mitigate climate change – a far more complicated subject?

By this measure, the future of humanity does not look particularly bright.

LFC said...

My position is that no one, or almost no one, should do what I did, namely go off to get the first dose without, at a minimum, first reading carefully the available authoritative materials on the vaccine (whichever one you're getting) and making an individualized risk/benefit decision. Had I done that, I likely would still have gotten it, but I would have been better informed. I don't see this position as being anti-science or anti-rational-thought; rather, the opposite.

Another Anonymous said...


But after you did your research and was satisfied that the vaccine offered greater benefit than detriment, you made the rational decision to be vaccinated. The six commenters who oppose vaccination, or who rationalize why others may be opposed to vaccination, have the same access to the information you had, yet they continue in their irrational opposition/or rationalization of opposition.

aaall said...

AA & LFC, what is this research of which you speak? All we really have is the FDA approval (including emergency) on the one hand and a bunch of (at best) anecdotal speculation on the other. There is (and has been) a certain amount of general nuttiness (think RFK jr. and Michele Bachmann) around vaccines and currently a politically driven, quite dishonest campaign against the Covid vaccines.

All we really have is past experience. When I was a child, polio was a thing and then it wasn't. I'm at risk for tetanus and am aware of the experience of the IJA so I keep that up to date. Rabies is endemic where I live (where did all the foxes go?) and basically fatal so Marley gets a shot. We all know that vaccination is centuries old and smallpox is no longer with us. I get a flu shot every year and a pneumonia when needed. Lots of shots over eight decades and so far so good.

This boils down to the FAA vs. Tucker Carlson et al.

BTW, why would you assume the doubters are operating in good faith? Have you read "What is to be Done." Fear and anxiety are powerful drivers.

LFC said...


The vaccines are operating under an emergency use authorization (EUA); that's not the same as regular FDA approval. I don't have time to engage further on this right now, but will try to come back at some point in the next few days.

(p.s. AA somewhat misread my comment, but I can't be bothered to correct him.)

Another Anonymous said...


I am having difficulty understanding your current comment. Based on your previous comments, e.g., your criticism of Ridiculous…, I counted you among the 11 commenters who endorse being vaccinated and criticize those who reject vaccination. Based on what information? The information which you cite in your comment – the fact that vaccines have now been used for two centuries and have rid the world of smallpox, eliminated polio from being the horrible threat it once was, etc. One does not have to know the science of vaccinations (although it would help) in order to conclude that a new Covid vaccine, despite the fact that it is a different vaccine from prior vaccines, since the biochemistry of the virus is different, given their history of success in the past, it is rational to believe (Hume notwithstanding) to believe that the new vaccine will also be effective. Fear and anxiety are not rational responses.

LFC said...


aaall did not say that fear and anxiety are rational responses. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines that work very differently than traditional vaccines. That statement in itself is not a criticism, just a statement of fact. You don't seem to be reading the comments to which are you responding with much care today.

LFC said...

More specifically mRNA vaccines do not contain killed virus. Rather as I understand it they induce cells to make the spike protein, thereby getting or priming the immune system to recognize it. An MD, an old friend, w whom I talked about this said that few people (if any) understand quite how they get cells to make the spike protein, but they do.

There is evidence that these vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease. My impression is that there is some, but quite a bit less, accumulated evidence about side effects (and other things that might go under the heading of risks). That is not in itself a reason not to get vaccinated, just a statement.

aaall said...

AA, I was merely pointing out that the notion that individuals can "research" the vaccines is ridiculous. For anti-vaxers "research" means the first five hits on google that support their priors.

All we have is past experience (personal and historic) and some level of FDA approval - the decision tree is very short and waiting to see is playing Russian roulette. MRNA vaccines are new but the science and research go back a few years. There have been many advances in vaccines over the centuries and these are yet another major one.

I'm not sure what you thought I meant. I was vaccinated for Covid months ago. The Republican/conservative disinformation campaign is sociopathic. Because we are in an ongoing revolution, I'll assume folks spreading doubt and disinformation are guilty until proven innocent.

Another Anonymous said...


What constitutes “research” for rational people and irrational people may be two different things. The fact that mRNA vaccines are based on a different biochemical analysis than the traditional live virus vaccines for the ordinary nonmedical citizen such as myself, and I assume LFC and you, does not enhance our understanding of precisely how it works, or why we should trust that it will work. The bottom line is that we trust and accept that knowledgeable physicians and virologists would not approve a vaccine, whatever its mechanism, which they would not expect to work, or worse, which would actually cause more harm. Is it rational to put one’s trust in the hands of the people, e.g., Dr.Faucci, who have the education, knowledge and experience that one would need in order to solve this problem? I believe so. I believe that is a rational choice. Versus believing unknown individuals spreading ignorance on the internet. Add to that the statistics that are being reported on a daily basis of the number of people who are still contracting covid versus those who are not – almost exclusively among the unvaccinated. When I said that those who are refusing to be vaccinated have the same access to information that LFC had, that is what I meant. LFC, basically, is relying on the expertise of those whom one would expect to have the knowledge to solve the problem. He does not understand why an mRNA vaccine would be effective under these circumstances anymore than, I suspect, he understands the special theory of relativity, but he accepts that Einstein was correct. Being rational entails, given the advances which have been achieved in science since the 15th century, relying on the knowledge of other rational people.

Danny said...

Sparks said... 'I think the media has largely glossed over the class element in favor of a kind of moralizing haranguing.'

I saw data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that young people ages 18 to 24 have the lowest rates of vaccination among adults. I can't manage to pull a 'class element' out of that per se, nor do I ever try very hard to pull a class element out of anything per se. It seems to me like a lazy habit. Maybe I have my own preferred lazy habits, but my father was a sociologist, and I've done my time, 'tis new to thee. I do wonder, if it seems relevant, about how some people have begun getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in secret for fear friends and family may disapprove of their decision to get the shot. I stood behind somebody at the pharmacy this week, who made lots of noise about his concerns that the vaccine was unsafe, made a big production of eyeballing all the possible side effects, and that he needed to drive home from the pharmacy, couldn't afford to be having a heart attack, etc. I'm not exaggerating, and nor do I think he was kidding, with his keeping the people behind him wating in line and, to use your word, haranguing. My perception was that he was just, dumb and that this was just, pathetic. I can't wrap my head around the reality that people are processing the vaccine issue so incompetently in their heads. I was getting a prescription filled, after visiting the doctor's office, and he seemed positively surprised that I could answer his question that yes I had the vaccine, yes I knew which version I had gotten, Moderna, and yes is was long ago, 2 or three months ago. 'Really'? He didn't seem to get that very often, wasn't used to getting that. He was a primary care physician who was on the phone with somebody before I had even stepped out the door, answering their silly objections to getting the vaccine of which they were 'terrified', saying 'be afraid of Covid-19, is what you should be afraid of', and etc. All true. I didn't read this stuff, I saw it. I didn't really even imagine this stuff, though I've seen some articles about this kind of thing happening. I find it hard to believe, even though it's true. These are congenital morons, I'm surrounded by monkeys who cannot think their way out of -- well, not to be tedious, but the medical building I walked into, I didn't see one person actually wearing a mask -- IN the medical building. These jokers all sort of had a mask hanging over their chin or such, daring me to stare. Don't give me your stink eye, I don't like masks, or such. Heck, maybe some people especially don't like masks, maybe that's part of it. I figure maybe, these people are as dumb, as they look.

Danny said...

LFC said... 'The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines that work very differently than traditional vaccines. That statement in itself is not a criticism, just a statement of fact.'

It's interesting stuff too -- it required decades of work for mRNA vaccines to overcome a series of hurdles, and mRNA vaccines can actually generate a stronger type of immunity.

I might not be looking at this from the broadest sort of perspective -- I figure that if anybody doesn't *know* that vaccines save lives — millions every year, then what, are they idiots? Well, not everybody has a couple of degrees. How exactly do I reach my pro-establishment conclusions about science? There is lots of force of habit involved. I trust establishment science, that's real trust. It's not like I really know what's in that shot, or what might be the risks. I'm just not somebody who claims I know as much or more about the causes of autism than either doctors or scientists. People who claim this kind of thing, the opposite is what is true. People who think they know more than the experts generally know the least about autism. I picture how, as it seems, that overconfidence is also strongest among people who oppose vaccines. If you think that actors or talk show hosts should influence public policy on vaccines, then I don't know, what is the word for this? I could say it's 'dumb', but upon reflection, is there a word for this that is a bit more specific of an explanation? It could well be, or at least it might not be contradictory, if somebody knows a lot about things other than vaccines, but are overconfident people, and also, I guess, that telling people that they’re idiots would never change their minds anyway.

I followed a link up the thread, found this twitter remark, which seems to me to be obviously true. My smugness isn't perhaps my best quality, but this speaks to me:

'If you have a smart phone or internet access and the rudimentary brain function of a squirrel you have no legitimate reason to think the vaccine is not free.'

Also this: 'The vaccine is FREE not able to afford it is BS'

Yet, maybe I don't appreciate that there are, like, all these people people who can't regularly see and talk to a doctor they trust? Sure, maybe that's relevant if also, you are stupid.

Anonymous said...

"These are congenital morons, I'm surrounded by monkeys who cannot think their way out of -- well, not to be tedious, but the medical building I walked into, I didn't see one person actually wearing a mask -- IN the medical building."

They are graduates: of the you-tube school for advanced studies. This is the phenomenon you all are reckoning to get a handle on. Every time as child I disassembled a radio or an engine or a light-switch to see "how it worked" I was -- in so doing -- investing in the stock of scientists.

Now every clever prat, and not a few of my clever friends too, is a graduate of that above-mentioned cellphone academy; where understanding is gotten instantly, no sooner has the ominous basso musical score commences and the lightning-rod pitchman starts his ominous pitch.

I.E. Rabinovitz

Anonymous said...

"the rudimentary brain function of a squirrel"

Squirrels are maddeningly clever. You will discover this if you decide to put out a bird-feeder.

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