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Op-Ed: With COVID Variant Threat, We Should Be Better Than This

The following op-ed is written by Col Owens, a retired Legal Aid attorney who teaches poverty law at NKU Chase College of Law, and is the author of the recently-published book, Bending the Arc Towards Justice.

It is very difficult for me to understand, much less feel confident about what I think should happen regarding, the new/renewed pandemic. The one that has been dubbed the "Pandemic of the Unvaccinated," with the new Delta variant.

The country is now divided in many ways, but a key one is between those vaccinated against COVID and those not vaccinated. The vaccinated include, generally speaking, those who believe the science provided by local, regional, national, and even global public health specialists.

The unvaccinated include, generally speaking, those more afraid of the vaccine than the virus, those who despite all assurances of the scientists and medical people are fearful of the vaccine, those who cannot take it for some health reason or legal reason - and those who are so ideologically opposed to government, or this government, that they will risk their lives to maintain their ideological position.

I find it difficult to know how to think about the unvaccinated. The amount of information available to them about the vaccines and their benefits from credible sources is overwhelming. It is the lead story on news broadcasts every day.

It is said by many that the real problem is disinformation. Or misinformation. Bad information provided either knowingly or unknowingly. Innocently or intentionally.
It is hard for me to understand how the unvaccinated choose to accept this bad information, when there is so much good information available that conforms with what they can observe around them - that the vaccine is not endangering people, but is protecting them.

I find I have little patience with those who refuse to protect themselves, as well as others around them, for essentially political reasons. I find myself feeling, OK, fine, if you don't want to be safe, that's your choice. Go ahead, thin the herd. Take yourselves out of the process.

But despite the logic and sentiment undergirding those feelings, they really aren't an acceptable answer. The unvaccinated don't endanger only themselves. They endanger other unvaccinated people, whatever their reasons for being unvaccinated.

It is hard for those of us in my generation not to remember back to when we went as the whole community to the local school gym to take the polio vaccine together. If there were critics or naysayers they were very quiet. People believed in the science and the good faith of the people providing the vaccine.

It is hard seeing that kind of unified community response asserting itself today.

So, in the face of these mixed feelings, I find myself pretty much where I started; support getting as much accurate information to people as possible, do what I can to counter disinformation and misinformation, and in the meantime, mask up again, both for self protection and to remind others that the virus is still among us.

Someday this will be history. Not a pretty chapter, despite the heroic efforts of some. We should be better than this.

Col Owens's book is now available here.