What must never be asked about COVID-19 and vaccines — nor ever revealed

For the censors out there, this is not an anti-vaccine piece. Just the opposite. I believe vaccines represent the best hope to billions of people around the world. This is simply about our rights as Americans, in the age of COVID-19, to ask certain questions. I say that because, although some will disagree, for many people life seemingly has become a dystopian science fiction movie of “Do as we say” edicts.

And quite sadly, an ugly and potentially harmful “Us vs. Them” mentality has taken hold with some on both sides of the COVID-19 treatment divide. It’s a divide that has appeared because of the consequences of forced or controlled “ignorance.”

During the first few months of the pandemic, you could use Google or another search engine to look up questions such as “What is the survival rate for COVID-19?” or “What is the average age of those getting the virus?” or “Does the virus hit the obese or those with chronic morbidities harder?” or “Where did the virus originate?” or “Has the virus gotten weaker as it has mutated?” But just try to do that now. You’ll find that many of the answers are buried, dating to early 2020, or simply impossible to find. 

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Why is that? Shouldn’t we Americans be allowed to look up such information and then make judgments ourselves?

In the United States, it can seem as if “They” (typically the politicians or their proxies) have decided “for our own good” that certain questions should not be asked, certain answers should be buried, certain scientists and doctors should be criticized, certain people should be fired, and a certain class should do the thinking for the rest of us.

There is no sane person who does not hope or pray that medical science can at least weaken the threat from the SARS-CoV-2 virus so that we can resume life as it mostly was before COVID-19. That said, everyone — including doctors and scientists in the field of infectious disease — should be able to ask questions or express doubts about certain protocols without being castigated or fired from their jobs.

In this unhealthy “Us vs. Them” dynamic that has sprung up as a toxic byproduct of the pandemic, there are many Americans — politicians, celebrities and Twitter trolls — who are not only calling for the firing of doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, military personnel, teachers, pilots, air traffic controllers and U.S. intelligence officers but also taking joy in that possible outcome.  

“Fire them.” Can we step back for a second and realize what that punishment truly would mean? Punishing these Americans potentially would deny them the ability to buy food for their children, pay their rent or mortgage, buy gasoline, pay for medicine or pay for the care of loved ones. This is what “Us vs. Them” can produce.

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To this point, on a recent “Real Time with Bill MaherWilliam (Bill) MaherBill Maher says Biden lacks 'passionate defenders,' 'get-up-and-go' Bill Maher pushes back on Fauci: 'Don't sit there in your white coat and tell me "just do what we say"' Biden to appear on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' on Friday MORE,” the liberal host said, “The world recognizes natural immunity. We don’t because everything in this country has to go through the pharmaceutical companies. Natural immunity is the best kind of immunity. We shouldn’t fire people who have natural immunity because they don’t get the vaccine. We should hire them. Yes?” Many doctors have made the same point.

Others have argued that many Americans who have not yet received vaccines are not necessarily anti-vaxxers but simply adults who are waiting as long as possible to see how the effects of the vaccines play out. And our understanding of the COVID-19 vaccines, compared to natural immunity and other questions, remains a moving target.

As one recent story in The Hill reported, “Vaccinated just as likely to spread delta variant within household as unvaccinated: study.” Another story from last week reported, “Immunity from both vaccines, COVID-19 infection lasts at least six months: CDC.”

That is not a criticism or indictment of the vaccines. Everyone should hope for their complete success. The point is, as with all viruses, there is a learning curve. Shouldn’t we want those in charge to know as much as possible, to give them the confidence needed to set policy for the rest of us?   

Americans should be rooting for medical science to win the war against the virus. That said, we should still have the option to question any policies — political, medical, or other — that are handed down from those who hold dominion over us and the lives of our children.       

The last time I checked, that is our right as American citizens. As President Biden said in his inaugural address, “That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our republic is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength.”         

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.