You’re Not Going to Convert Anti-Vaxxers — Just Save Yourself

By Thomas Holt Russell

Data, statistics, celebrities, doctors, and common sense is not enough to convince those people who are fearful of the Covid-19 vaccinations. But I am good with it.

I was watching Michael Che’s HBO Max comedy series, That Damn Michael Che. One of the skits that took place in a barbershop in Harlem was a discussion about the COVID-19. In the skit, various barbers and patrons talked about why they were not getting the vaccine. Reasons ranged from the vaccines injected microchips into Black people, or it was all part of an experiment to control Black people, or it’s a continuation of the Tuskegee Experiment, or it did not have time to be sufficiently tested, and many other reasons.

Che did that skit for laughs. But I recently attended a community forum on COVID-19, and participants at the community forum actually mentioned every one of those excuses in the forum. This was not a joke. Most Black people agree whether they are for or against the vaccination: Black people have a better reason for being skeptical about the vaccinations than any other group in the world. I am included in that way of thinking.

However, a little common sense can go a long way. Without getting into a bunch of statistics, it is evident that the vaccinations have done their job of slowing the infections and lowering the hospitalizations and death rate among all people. If the vaccination would have taken an ordinary course as far as development, we would still be waiting for the vaccination. The process had to be quickened in order to save lives.

Imagine what the country would look like under that scenario. We would be in a lockdown, but not a self-imposed mandated lockdown, but a lockdown imposed by the virus itself. We would not have the workers or the customers to run the country, and the economy would plummet into territory that we have never imagined before. Hospitals would lack healthcare workers, and facilities would overflow with dead and unattended bodies lying on gurneys in hallways and waiting rooms.

This view is not hyperbole. Take a look at India. India experienced a second wave of COVID-19 infections in October of 2020. It was the Delta variant, a highly infectious strain. Hospitals ran out of oxygen. In one large hospital, 80% of the beds were taken up by COVID-19 patients. The government had to take over what little supply of remaining oxygen. India’s healthcare system buckled and collapsed under the pressure the Delta variant had put upon it.

America’s healthcare infrastructure is much more robust than India’s healthcare system. But an extended surge can turn America’s healthcare system into a third-world system in a surprisingly short amount of time. Without vaccinations, we would be like countries like India. We were well on the way to that scenario before the vaccinations arrived. For those that say that this could never happen, I say look at the last five years. Like millions, I watched the shenanigans of January 6. Though the attack on the Capital was surprising enough, the lack of outrage of those in political power is most alarming.

We are faced with overwhelming statistics, data, and empirical knowledge that show that vaccinations work. Even if we count every breakthrough infection, it will amount to a minuscule percent of the infected people. We (the vaccinated) have to face the fact that no amount of talking or statistics, hospitalizations, or ridiculous death rates will be enough to convince anti-vaxxers to change their views. The anti-vaxxers already have all of the information they need to make an informed decision. I have been visited by death and sickness in my family, and I, along with other immediate family members, have contracted COVID-19. My sister has died of COVID-19, as well as former co-workers. I have written about this several times, yet I still cannot convince my family or close friends that they will be safer with the vaccine than without it.

So what should we do? Since I am not a person in a position of power, there will be no mandating any safety measures for the people I encounter. But I can still protect myself by continuing to wear my mask, not attend large gatherings of people, wash my hands as much as possible, and…

That is all I can do. I know it sounds lame, but convincing people to take the vaccination is a waste of time. They will have to figure it out themselves. The deathbed confessions of those anti-vaxxers are a little too late to make any difference. Most of those anti-vaxxers, who are now sick or dying from COVID-19, already had people like me who tried to convince them that getting a vaccination is an excellent move, and they did not listen. As a vaccinated person, I appreciate those former anti-vaxxers lying in hospital beds telling the other anti-vaxxers the importance of vaccinations. However, I still wish (along with the loved ones of the anti-vaxxers) that they would have listened in the first place.

I am so tired of writing about this. There seems to be no threshold of how many deaths it takes to convince people. We have to protect ourselves by being vigilant in our interactions with the rest of the world. We cannot save non-believers; they have to save themselves. Meanwhile, COVID-19, without conscious or even malice, will continue to kill across the lines of race or political affiliation we have drawn up for ourselves.

If a cluster of killer bees invaded a sporting event, both teams face the same threats and would work together to fight the common foe. The lines that separate the players into two different groups would suddenly disappear. Or they can deny that the bees are actually killer bees or deny they are bees at all, and they can stay on the field and eventually die, while others put on a ventilated bee suit.

Hmmm, never mind, that is an awful and ridiculous metaphor. Americans are so much smarter than that.