The Freedom Conundrum

The responsibility of freedom lies in the exercise of latitude. Lately, it is feeling a lot like Americans have misunderstood freedom to mean “I can do whatever I want”. Social Media and the political arena are hellscapes of misinformation and rejection of expertise. America feels, very much, plagued by two different kinds of viruses — only one of which has a vaccination available.

Filtering truth from lies can be complicated when social media replaces expertise

Personal Freedom

When I was a kid my mom always told me that my rights stopped at the tip of someone else's nose. What she meant was that my personal choices should not affect others. If I am interacting with the world appropriately I should not compromise the safety, well-being, health, or happiness of others. Constitutionally speaking, a faction of Americans are utilizing the concept of personal freedom to avoid vaccination, masking, and social distancing measures. But what concrete information are they using to speak out against the vaccination?

There are wild claims about tracking devices and 5G implants circulating, some more subtle conspiracies about how Fauci created it and his associates are benefiting from the vaccine financially and some who cite legitimate concerns about safety but then ignore the studies for the previous SARS outbreak where the initial blueprint of the vaccination was rooted. Finally, a strong number of Americans believe that, because the FDA did not approve of them before their release, the vaccines are not safe.

Given the incredible amount of misinformation that is not filtered out of circulating media, it is understandable that some might be confused. It is also predictable that others are standing their ground on a mountain of garbage. So what is the truth?

10 Facts About Vaccines, Masks, and Covid-19

  1. The vaccines were approved under an Emergency Use Authorization. The EUA does not mean the vaccines were not researched or tested. Each vaccine available to the public — Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson all underwent clinical trials prior to being released to the public. These vaccines were given under the EUA because of the public health emergency.
  2. An adverse outcome in VAERS is not equivalent to damage, injury, or a life-threatening event due to the vaccine. Reporting to VAERS is done by providers of the vaccine in order to log several different outcomes including injection site reactions that are normal, mild symptoms that are correlated to the normal immune response to a vaccine, allergic reactions, and other events that are not life-threatening. Looking for VAERS adverse event numbers is not the same as saying “over 400 thousand people have had bad reactions”. That is simply not true. To date, there have been 3 deaths associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, exclusively. Died after and died of are two very different things, don’t conflate the two.
  3. Preliminary numbers indicate that the vaccines have likely spared around 140,000 lives based on a projected percentage of anticipated life lost.
  4. Face masks have studied positive defense against the spread of respiratory droplets, sputum, and other unsavory transmission vessels of infectious disease.
  5. Yes, approved respirators with high-quality filters are the best protection against viruses and bacteria. However, those are not widely available to the public and have to be used by healthcare personnel who have the highest exposure to droplets and infectious materials. The general public can have around 80% protection against the spread of droplets with simple cloth masks, surgical masks, and facial coverings.
  6. This is no the first outbreak of SARS. A previous outbreak occurred in China beginning with the first known cases in November of 2002 and growing through 2004 but remained epidemic to that area. This outbreak was isolated to the host, a cat-like animal called a civet, thus making SARS a zoonotic disease. SARS Cov-2 is the first pandemic level SARS situation.
  7. In 2012 SARS was declared a select agent — meaning it poses a particular threat to the public and has a high index of suspicion to be a pandemic illness.
  8. The first known case of Covid-19 was noted to be in November of 2019. The timeline for Covid-19 is listed here. It should be noted that it is eerily similar to the first SARS outbreak in 2002 but on a much larger scale.
  9. The pandemic, also beginning in China, is largely implicated to be of a zoonotic origin as well. Investigations have been difficult because of international cooperation, however, the zoonotic component is cited to be the largest suspicion amongst those involved in the origin studies. It is important, however, to note that the origin is yet to be determined and other theories exist. Regardless of origin, we now have confirmed natural variants and the virus is evolving as predicted.
  10. Morbidity rates for Covid-19 are not the sole indicator of loss. Thinking the only negative is death would be the equivalent of denying every disability claim asking simply “but did you die?”. That is not the whole picture. Covid long haulers are now confirmed and studies are underway to better understand the long-term effects of Covid.

Public Responsibility

In times of trial, Americans have traditionally found some form of common ground. Perhaps, in my lifetime, the most heralded occasion of patriotism as a collective was the time following 9/11. The bittersweet conclusion of Afghanistan this week has some cosmically interesting timing. 20 years ago we began as relatively unified country, however you feel politically, to fight a war. I won’t unpack that here. Why can’t we see a pandemic as an equally lethal engagement and understand the principle of service to nation and neighbor the same?

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