What's Behind Vaccine Hysteria?
If you are reluctant to get the COVID vaccine and beginning to feel overrun by forces pressuring you to get vaccinated, you aren’t alone and you aren’t crazy. There’s a reason you feel the way you do. You are being manipulated.
We are being bombarded with commercials pushing us to be socially responsible. Medical professionals, celebrities, and folks in our communities admonish us not to shirk our civic duty. Suddenly, the vaccine is the only way to normalcy.
Friends and family openly brag about their vaccinations and gasp in astonishment when they find out you haven’t decided or, worse, that you will not get it. Doctors who inquire also give that disapproving look.
The president routinely stokes fear, recently decrying the unvaccinated. Andrew Cuomo had the gall to suggest that the unvaccinated “could kill their own grandmother.”
Adding to the pile-on, we are now besieged with “incentive” programs offered by public-private partnerships that essentially divide us into the vaxxed and the unvaxxed… and it’s becoming downright creepy.
First, the simple “get jabbed, get a gift” incentives. Following a similar program in Connecticut, New Jersey’s governor launched the “Shot and a Beer” program where those who get vaccinated in May get a free beer at participating breweries upon presentation of a “vaccination card.” He’s also promoting a “Grateful for the Shot” program that whisks churchgoers away from religious services to vaccination sites.
Jersey Shore nightclub D’Jais is hosting a vaccination clinic that will give patrons a Summer 2021 VIP Card. Ooh. The vaccinated are very important people who must be publicly acknowledged.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is probably using tax dollars to give $100 savings bonds to anyone between 16 and 35 who gets vaccinated.
The incentives then intensify with the lure of special treatment. Cuomo teamed up with the Yankees to offer free tickets to fans who get vaccinated at the stadium. Same for the Mets. And, to protect the vaxxed from the unvaxxed, they will be seated separately -- even though the vaxxed can’t catch COVID from the unvaxxed. If you don’t understand that, then the entire field of immunology is turned on its head and…the Sun revolves around the Earth.
This all has the odious markings of a two-tiered society where the vaxxed get special treatment. Will they get preferred seating while the unvaxxed languish in the nosebleed section? Don’t be surprised if the mollified masses -- vaxxed, privileged, and enamored by their own civic virtue boo pictures of the unvaxxed as they appear on the jumbotron. Oblivious to how vile this sounds, Cuomo said, "if you're vaccinated that's one category, you're unvaccinated, that's another category." You, to the right. The rest, to the left.
The goal? To shame anyone who opts out into submission.
In New York City, De Blasio announced free admission to those who get vaccinated under the blue whale at the Museum of Natural History and added: "We're gonna be looking to do incentives just like that to give people great opportunities when they get vaccinated." Will discounts and freebies give way to tax breaks, elevated status in society, preferences in college admissions, jobs, and government contracts? Will the unvaccinated have to sit at the back of the bus and drink from different water fountains?
New York already has the Excelsior Pass that provides digital proof of vaccination; Chicago has plans for a “vax pass” that provides access to concerts and other events. Meanwhile, one individual has already been arrested for counterfeiting cards… but let the murderers, rapists, and violent left-wing rioters run free.
Washington’s governor Jay Inslee just “released guidance on non-vaccinated-only sections, so [there will be] vaccination segregation, at outdoor stadiums, at graduation ceremonies for schools, even your church.”
From my vantage point, the “vaccine hesitant” are very analytical, very calm, and very patient. They are not anti-vaxxers by any stretch but want to make an informed, data-driven decision, weigh the costs and benefits, and do what they deem best for themselves and their families. They are willing to wait for more information about long-term effects before plunging the needle into their arms.
The hysteria is coming from individuals in positions of power who appear to be ignoring the science and are acting highly irrational. They don’t seem to grasp what the unvaccinated understand: the vaccines do not have FDA approval but only Emergency Use Authorization which allows unapproved vaccines to be used in public health emergencies. While manufacturers still had to conduct all three phases of clinical trials and present compelling evidence of safety and effectiveness before the FDA would issue the EUA, the normal approval process would take longer and yield more information about the long-term side effects of this radically new and potentially paradigm shifting mRNA technology.
Once those most at risk have been vaccinated and deaths and hospitalizations of our most vulnerable decline, and the virus is on the wane, should we be vaccinating the entire population without a thorough understanding of the long-term side effects? Is the Biden Administration turning the entire country into a massive clinical phase trial?
The younger and healthier the individual, the more rational it is for that person to say: "The risk of dying or suffering grave consequences from a COVID infection are known and they are low. Taking the vaccine presents many unknowns."
Hysterical people are scrambling to figure out how to get the hesitant to capitulate. This heavy push is making people wary: if it’s so obvious that this vaccine is the answer, why are you trying so hard to convince us with all of these incentives?
Perhaps University of Pennsylvania behavioral economics expert David Asch, MD, MBA, can explain. He studies how people make health decisions. As opposed to utilizing incentives (beer and tickets) or rules (mandated vaccines to attend school), people can be cajoled into getting the vaccine usin
a variety of techniques that are lighter touches than either rules or incentives. They’re from behavioral economics, they’re a gentle form of paternalism -- and yet they’re very powerful.
There’s something called ‘social norming.’ As much as we like to think that we make our own decisions, the truth is that one of the most motivating factors for humans is doing what we think everyone else is doing.
Paternalism presumes the target is stupid and easily controlled. Slavery is paternalistic. Paternalism is very powerful, but not at all gentle and we should resist it with all of our might.
The messaging is designed to tug at our heartstrings and pique our desire to again run with the normal crowd; high-five fellow baseball fans; be a part of something good, something special, something almost religious… to save lives. Everyone else is doing it. I don’t want to be “that guy.”
Utilizing the key ingredients of propaganda -- psychology and marketing -- Asch explains, “Don’t try to use rules based on rational ideas.” To compel the “vaccine hesitant” to abandon their faculties and reach for the needle, “we need to know how to hitch our [incentive] programs to those predictable psychological foibles [predictable ways we are irrational].” Not with reason. Or facts. And certainly not with science.
Hat tip: Karen S. and Amanda H.
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