"Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own (liberty), whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others."

--1905 United States Supreme Court decision in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, ruling against a man who refused to be vaccinated against small pox.

WHAT, you’re trying to tell me the earth is older than 6,000 years. Won’t believe it. Sarah Palin told me so…….

Great great article. Couldn’t agree with you more. Two things:

1. I love your analogy about where the rights of someone to be unvaccinated override my rights to feel safe. Feel the same way about the second amendment. Where do the rights of someone to carry a gun into a store or out in public override my rights to feel safe. I also love the idea of business taking the bull by the horns and not allowing anyone without proof of vaccination to use their services. Sure would force lots of them to capitulate and reluctantly get the vaccine.

2. For the life of me I’ll NEVER understand how Trump (being the narcissist that he is) would let this opportunity pass him by. He should be standing at a podium this very minute with every network in the world (and they would do it because let’s face it the man has a captiatinge personality and even people who hate him will watch him. Like watching a traffic accident) saying I am the one who gave you this life saving vaccine. It was me and me alone who did it for you. I DESERVE ALL THE CREDIT and remember that in 2024. He should also have photos of his whole family getting the shots. His followers would follow him.

--Lorenzo S, Bellingham

This epidemic (like many other challenges) will be resolve by the business world.

Watch when the constrains driven by businesses on the unvaccinated get implemented - everybody will get vaccinated – pronto.

--Isidore F, New York

Sadly people like Trump and Desantis wouldn't be leading parades if they didn't have hordes of cultists marching behind them and a political party (except Liz Cheney and a handful of others) to craven to call their evil out. To a large extent I think there is calculation behind this that Biden and the Dems will be harmed in the coming elections if COVID can continue to wreak havoc. And sadly the Dems are too meek to act decisively with outrage and action. The same applies to Jan 6 and climate change. In my mind all three are major threats of similar magnitude. Fox news and others of that ilk feed the evil daily.

I hope someone in leadership will step up but I'm not optimistic. I spose there's some solace in the indisputable truism that nature bats last. For sure I will wear my mask and get my booster when it's time and as Albert Camus wrote in his prescient 1947 book The Plague: "I've learned in this life that on this earth there are pestilences and victims. And it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilence."

Be well and keep resisting the evil!

--Robert S, Denver

Your idea mirrors what Richard Thaler (co-author of Nudge) said on Fareed Zacharia’s program a couple weeks ago. His analogy was smoking – no matter how deadly-sounding they made the warnings on side of packages and ads, people kept on smoking. It was not until smoking was prohibited in offices, restaurants, etc., that the resisters (maybe we could call them “diehards”?) finally realized they had to quit. They just looked stupid standing outside of office buildings (especially in the cold) to satisfy their nicotine craving.

--Kent L, New York

I even think Medical Insurance premiums should be increased by vaccination refusal.

--Ian J, Columbia (SC)

Rather than expect the government to restrict access for the unvaxed, or indeed to come together to take any action, there may be another way.

Hit ‘em in the pocket. Hospitalization costs a lot, so insurance companies could impose a hefty surcharge on premiums paid by the unvaccinated for Covid hospital treatment. Just as they charge smokers more. Or even, deny coverage in such a case. That would be a pretty easy rider to add to renewing policies.

Don’t you think there's more hope in the business sector taking action than the government?

--Anthony B, Santa Barbara

I just don’t understand why insurance companies are not charging the unvaxxed a huge premium. I’m pissed bec my rates are going up bec of those dummies. So I’m at a much greater risk of dying AND it’s costing me more. Just f*ing great.

--Elizabeth C, Santa Barbara

Good essay and food for thought. But I doubt it’ll move the needle (pun intended) one inch. I have the same debate for years with people who don’t wear helmets (bicycle or motorcycle). You want the freedom to refuse, but won’t take accountability and responsibility for the outcome. Don’t wear it but don’t come looking to my insurance pool or public weal when you are more severely injured.

Similarly, the Trump-oriented crowd wants the freedom (ironically, my body my choice) to not be vaccinated but won’t be accountable or responsible enough to isolate and mask. This is even more irresponsible than the helmet analogy, which at least mostly injures or kills the freedom-lover. Here we have demonstrated injury to others on top of that.

--Irwin G, Seattle

…and btw, I don't bother engaging with anti-vaxxers, unlike some of my FB friends, for who, hope of sanity in others springs eternal.

I believe we are beyond the vaccines saving the world. Things I've read about breakthrough infections with the Delta variant indicate that the world will never achieve herd immunity through the vaccine. One article suggested that herd immunity will be achieved by naturally being exposed to the Delta variant in increments. Each time you are exposed, your own immunity gets stronger. Seems to make sense. Why did the Spanish flu pandemic just eventually stop, even without a vaccine. What the vaccine does do is prevent serious infections, hospitalizations and many deaths.

You stated "But it does have basis to deprive you of certain rights if you constitute a dangerous risk to the public at large." I think the way to proceed is not to deprive folks of rights, but provides economic incentives for states and individuals. Not sure how the Supremes would rule on depriving folks of 'rights'. How did the US get a uniform 21 yo drinking age. States without it could not get federal highway funds. Not vaccinated - golly, do you have any idea what your medical insurance premiums will be. And how high the deductible will be? And no Obama Care. School districts ignore State orders that they can't require masks and the teachers won't get paid. Have the Feds pay the districts directly. Things like that.

--Scott K, Jerusalem

Other things we take for granted and adhere to make this look absurd. Take seat belts in cars! We all wear them. We give up our personal freedom to sit there and drive unharnessed. We buckle up. And a seat belt is only about the person’s safety that is using it, not about someone else you might get in an accident with. But getting vaccinated or if you don’t want to do that, distancing yourself from those who have been vaccinated is a matter of the health of those around you! Why is that considered a higher infringement of our personal rights than wearing a seat belt in a car?

…In the case of controlling the pandemic and getting beyond it, you don’t even have to go way outside the “popular” to get the simple solutions to ending it as your so eloquently pointed out in your piece. It’s not brain surgery! Our scientists and researchers who have been working on this type of vaccine for almost 4 decades can vouch for it. This is not a way of producing vaccines that was dreamt up last March!

And just a disclaimer, I am not someone who is generally pro-vaccine. I did not give my son all of the “required” vaccines when he was a kid. I have never gotten a flu shot. But this one is different and here is how I came to that stark realization.

I coach athletes all over the world. So I get a snapshot that likely very few people do of trends on a very broad scale. Last year I had a lot of them get COVID. None died fortunately. But most of them suffered significant lingering effects for months and months and months. And some are still not back to normal almost a year later. They got over the overt symptoms, but suffered from strange side effects. Their heart rates were 20-30 beats higher than normal. Their energy levels were in the toilet. They couldn’t concentrate at work. Even moderate activity felt demanding. And these are highly trained athletes! It was clear that COVID is NOT your normal flu or virus and not something to mess around with. And that is one major reason I decided to break my normal protocol and get vaccinated.

We are in the real world of a pandemic that has crippled all of our freedoms. It has devastated everyone’s ability to make a living. It has stifled our health care system because COVID cases have “Trumped” elective surgeries that eventually can lead to devastating consequences if not taken care of. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a stark comment on that. He said, “Screw your freedom. Your freedom comes with responsibility.” Here is a link to his cutting through the BS commentary on those who want to have life go on as normal but are not willing to get vaccinated and act responsibly when it comes to protecting the health of every citizen of this country:

--Mark A, California

I liked and agree with 90% of what you wrote. However I think the anti vax POV is much broader and more complex than you articulate. Yes Trump clearly politicized Covid for his own selfish reasons. But the minority communities don't support Trump, and that is where we see the most resistance, at least in the Bay Area. There reasons are complex and outreach has been slow.

I am am a center-right Libertarian. I have never supported Trump. But effectively demonizing his supporters is a potentially tragic mistake, It makes him more powerful and dangerous. If we are to make progress uniting the Country we must understand why Trump like figures are attractive to this class of voters. Complex question but very worthy of a lot of discussion .Understanding that question may provide the path forward.

--Greg S, San Francisco

…although it’s frustrating to deal with the inconsistencies in masking- i.e. you wear a mask when you enter a restaurant. Then you take it off and leave it off. As do other diners. So where’s the protection really?

--Rosalind J, Los Angeles

My favorite line is:

“ getting vaccinated isn’t just a choice to save your own life. It’s an act of grace and mercy toward your fellow citizens.“

Throughout this entire nightmare I can only think “some (many?) prefer simple lies over complex truths“.

--Ron C, Bellingham

I know we disagree on a lot of things as I consider myself way to the right of Atilla the Hun, but I agree with the majority of what you have in your article. Clearly Donald Trump did a lot to worsen the situation. However, I think it is far too easy to blame Donald Trump for what’s happening right now. I am angry with him primarily because he ran such a poor campaign and was simply too egomaniacal to run on his victories and rather had to be front and center in the media all the time, even if it was to his detriment. However, I think what’s happening right now is that the antivaxers that we all have to shake our head at at this point have not been led so much by Donald Trump as by a rejection of the media and the left as everything being evil in the world. The fact is the media has gone a long way to foster this position as have far left wingers. The polarization we are seeing is not so much caused by Donald Trump as much as by multiple decades of further polarization fostered by the media. These antivaxers appear to you and I as totally irrational and without basis for their beliefs. However they look at themselves as somehow being patriotic.

My mother and father-in-law are 83 and 85 respectively and just got through Covid with my mother-in-law nearly dying. We have been preaching to them for six months to get vaccinated, however they would not. Even after having gone through all this, they still are arguing that they are now immune and don’t need the vaccine. It is extremely frustrating to have to argue with otherwise intelligent people about something so basic.

However as you pointed out, the idiot who connected autism with vaccines and was propagated by the media as well as so many other stories which were “based on the science“ which turned out to be more of a philosophical bend than science. While I cannot stand Donald Trump, I am conservative and believe we should minimize government intrusion, and limit regulation. This COVID-19 vaccine crisis has been caused by the abuse of the media with “loose truths“ and having an agenda. I would love to see things get back to a media that reports facts and lets the populous form opinions. If we had honest discussions like you suggest we should have with people of opposite persuasion, we could actually find middle ground. However that does not sell newspapers. But as we are the ones buying newspapers, maybe the populous needs to look in the mirror and not blame one group or another.

--Davis H, Lake Arrowhead

I write this in the spirit of dialogue and as a medical doctor of 49 years. On your politics and viewpoints on this illness I couldn’t disagree with you more.

My specialty in medicine is Infectious Disease. I trained at UCSD which at the time was the premier program in the country for Infectious Disease and Epidemiology. My research area was antiviral drugs. I know this area very well and I am astounded by crazy Stalinist policies that are being unleashed on us by our for profit CDC.

This virus is a manufactured bioweapon financed by our government. There are gene additions that include HIV, Mad cow prion and ACE 2 receptor binders. Its purpose was mass genocide and to pave the way for a vaccine as a savior. Now people are so afraid they will jump from the frying pan into the fire and take this experimental gene therapy. And whats worse, now it is becoming mandatory to work and recreate.
Even the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Nuremberg Trials understood and affirmed that a person has a right to take or not take any medicine without penalty. Medical freedom is all but lost. What a joke.

The vaccine doesn’t work so thoroughly that they have had to shutdown great wise scientists to prevent them from being heard by normal people. That alone is a sign of the evil graft that is being perpetrated. Since when in science are contrary views deplatformed? The killing Taliban can say anything they want on twitter and FB but Dr Zelenko can’t give his scientific evidence.

The CDC VAERS report show this vaccine to have killed more people than the total all the vaccines of the last 40 years in only 8 months. And now they are shutting down that reporting system so the numbers stop going up.

I think the science is best summed up by Dr Zelenko as what he says is actual science and the lying Fauci and his whole cabal of criminals have unleashed a plague vaccine on the people of the world. Please watch this very smart man disassemble the whole fabricated façade.


Anyway, at least you have one in the disagree column.

--David M,Clearwater

A major problem for me with the Covid vaccines is that a significant number of well educated and well informed people do not trust either their efficacy, their safety, the process that is being used to prove their efficacy/safety, or all three. I have a saying that I believe holds true across political lines: "where well meaning, capable, and well informed people disagree, the problem is likely one of time." This means that people who fit that mold usually can agree about the long term goals, but they just disagree about the logistics surrounding WHEN the goals should be accomplished. Because of this, if you can align the WHEN, you can usually come to an agreement around the HOW. This is critical alignment required in thriving communities and I hope would be a core value for everyone who calls the United States their home.

As you probably know, I've lived for a number of years in countries structured as dictatorships - one of the most boring things about these places is how patronizing their systems are. The sophomoric statements the state media makes are often more "how the rulers would like its population to perceive reality" vs. "information that the public should know about." This is usually coupled with topical censorship and taboos - censored and labeled as taboo by a central authority regardless of how a well educated/informed person may evaluate the topic. When a topic creates this type of environment, it is because the topic threatens the power structure in some way. The response from the power structure is therefore not designed to produce a solution to the topic so much as it is to reduce the threat to the power structure. Unfortunately, while this approach can quickly quell the near term threat to the power structure, it often not only does not provide a solution, it also creates and propagates collateral damage that disproportionately impacts the vulnerable.

As a result, I have developed an aversion, and perhaps a keen sense, for these propaganda environments. Our media and government's response to both Covid and the Covid vaccines is strikingly familiar to me from my experience in centrally controlled countries. The input from well meaning, capable, and informed people is being ignored, censored, and in many situations, demonized, while the headlines ring hollow. Sadly?, I guess most people in the United States don't have a reference point to know it when they see it, and therefore don't know to be wary. However, at the end of the day, I still believe that the truth will come out about safety, efficacy, and process, and that the good people of the United States will embrace it - whatever it may be. In this Covid situation, I believe it would behoove us all if our media, government, and public health officials avoided the boring patronizing propaganda approach and adopt a strong data-centered "proof is in the pudding" based approach to secure community alignment. I think people on all sides would respond positively to that. Until that is done, all of the fear-based emotion and propaganda surrounding Covid and Covid vaccines is a clear marker to me to observe from a distance while caring for my local communities.

I asked: When you say, ‘I believe it would behoove us all if [we] adopt a strong data-centered "proof is in the pudding" based approach to secure community alignment,’ I have to ask: How much data do you need for that proof? The reason I’m a pro-vaxxer is that, to my reading, there’s a mountain of hard, published, trial-based evidence supporting safety and efficacy, as well as massive post-clinical trial experience demonstrating real world impact. This is all peer-reviewed stuff, as opposed to the speculative nature of many anti-vaxxers. To me, the only outstanding question is the possibility of longer term side effects that haven’t yet emerged. The reason I’m not deterred by that is that mRNA technology is not new; it’s decades old and well proven. All the pharma guys did is tailor it for the particulars of the COVID virus. He replied:

I'm an engineer - and as you know from my work, I kind of eat data, so I probably need a lot in this situation. The issue is not so much that the data is all one sided and not enough, the issue is that there is data that supports various perspectives for and against. So, what I often do when mud is slinging is I wade into the raw data to run the numbers to establish a perspective for myself, and then move on. I've done that here, and a significant point of concern for me is that the public sources of data do not make it easy to paint a picture - it is difficult to structure a hypothesis and then evaluate its veracity with the data sets available to common Joe. For example, CDC source data does not have a consistency that allows effective comparisons between Covid and Influenza, even when mashing up various tables. It is being taken advantage of by both sides.

There are strong, and mostly logical, conflicts of interest at play as large corporations move into a kind of public/private partnership sphere - based on my 20+ year professional background working with some of the world's largest companies, I know how business works - we are metric driven and the machine's mission is to beat our numbers. I think there is an interesting clash here when big business meets government - I've wondered if the liability aversion and freedom-of-operation that businesses demand could be contributing to the problems with the source data. While I know not everyone is like me, I expect more from our public health data sets.

As a friend, CTO of a Fortune 100, one day said to me: "Figures never lie, but liars figure." Seems like recently, everyone has their expert.

--Hans R, San Jose

I like the seat belt analogy for requiring vaccination. I think of someone unvaccinated going out in public like an alcoholic driving a car. They may not always be drunk, and might not have an accident. Of course when they do have an accident, sometimes they only hurt themselves but so often others are also injured or killed. Of course if they also don’t wear a mask, that’s like having another drink or two.

-- Alex H, Los Angeles

I’m not surprised with the response, and I agree with those who said business will, in time, solve the problem. Why? Because as a business they can’t afford to let the political circus dictate what may or may not be done somewhere but maybe not everywhere. The politicos have no real skin in the game - people loss jobs and their retirement when businesses are shut down or bankrupt – they only care about power, their party, polls, and projected votes.

I think many “hard-core conservatives” don’t comment anymore because they don’t want the endless preaching and rage associated with anything or anyone that does not fit the liberal and/or progressive mantra. I also don’t think that Trump, his memes, and base are conservatives in anyway shape or form.

--Bill A, Atlanta

Two excellent articles well worth reading. The first is by my cousin and appeared in The Atlantic. The second is from the L.A. Times.