Home U.S Dr. Marc Siegel: Power of COVID vaccines vs. politics of fear, Neanderthals

Dr. Marc Siegel: Power of COVID vaccines vs. politics of fear, Neanderthals

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Public health, especially in the middle of a pandemic, should trump politics (pun intended). Unfortunately, too often it doesn’t. For public health to be most effective and inspire cooperation rather than fear and division, it must involve a simple direct message. 

This kind of powerful science and direct messaging when it comes to COVID is what I found a little over a year ago, at Nebraska Medicine, which I visited on behalf of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” 

In Nebraska, a group of top scientists at the National Quarantine Center, led by chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold, was examining the supposedly new-to-America SARS COV 2 virus found in passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Dr. Gold and others warned me that the emerging outbreak was far more contagious than people realized.  

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They believed the virus was already spreading through our communities at the time. Tucker himself realized it too, warning of the extent of this massive pandemic even as the World Health Organization continued to maintain into early March, 2020, that international travel was OK, even as the virus was spreading into Europe and beyond.  

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Flash forward to now, where the pandemic is finally ebbing thanks to mass vaccination added to natural immunity in those who have had COVID, yet mixed messaging from the top leads to continued fear and division.  

We could all be celebrating over 82 million doses of the vaccine having been administered to over 16% of Americans and hospitalizations dropping to below 45,000.

Instead, the president himself is calling the governors of Texas and Mississippi “Neanderthals” for prematurely removing their states’ mask mandates while at the same time he is relaxing Trump immigration rules leading to over one hundred migrants who tested positive for COVID to enter our border communities and beyond.  

This inconsistency spreads fear as well as COVID. While continued masking and distancing makes sense, ridicule never works as a motivator in the public health world. 

Mixed messaging creates uncertainty and fear, which the media and politicians may continue to use to advance their agendas at our expense.

At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s delay in releasing guidelines that it would at least be OK for fully vaccinated, maskless individuals to congregate in small groups sends the unfortunate message that even immunized patients remain at risk.

This despite a growing body of science supporting the fact that being fully vaccinated with two Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna shots causes a marked decrease risk of viral transmission. In Israel, for example, which examined the contacts of over 600,000 people who were vaccinated with both shots and found a 92% drop in infections.  

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For those who have been vaccinated, these results should mean at least some freedom from fear of contagion if not yet complete freedom from restrictions here in the U.S.  

Sometime soon, as the case and hospitalization numbers continue to decline and the numbers vaccinated continue to increase, I predict a vaccine card will be your ticket to travel or to enter a restaurant or gym, as is currently the case in Israel. But in the meantime, I am concerned that a pandemic mentality could continue undiminished no matter what the actual numbers reveal. 

As I write in my book, “COVID: the Politics of Fear and the Power of Science,” mixed messaging creates uncertainty and fear, which the media and politicians may continue to use to advance their agendas at our expense, even as the threat itself diminishes. As the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board wrote wisely this week, “liberals and their public health friends don’t seem to want the pandemic to end – ever.”  

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Moving the goalposts is a sure sign of disingenuousness, just as blaming the other guy while encouraging policies that spread the virus leads to both uncertainty and distrust. Fear of COVID itself is replaced by fear of variants or fear that the vaccine may not be 100% effective at reducing transmission. But Tucker Carlson, who foresaw the pandemic ravaging our country, now sees the light at the end of the tunnel. He is not one to allow an agenda to distort his vision. 

We can all learn from that. 

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