If we do not learn from the past and seize new opportunities and scientific breakthroughs, we are doomed to incur far worse disasters than might have been. Adopting an anti-science position and following the anti-vaxxer movement leads to many COVID deaths that could have been avoided. Simply put, we need everyone vaccinated now to end this pandemic, and in the future, we need to integrate human-animal-environmental health, the concept of One Health, as we all depend on each other and on maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with the environment.
Some Historic Perspective on Anti-science and Anti-vaxxers
Protests against the progress of science and technology is nothing new. Early in the nineteenth century, roughly from 1811-1817, a band of English textile workers, led by Ned Ludd, destroyed the cotton and woolen machinery they believed were threatening their jobs. While their protest had nothing to do with health, the term to describe their action has caught on as a generic definition of individuals opposed to new technology or ways, known as people resisting progress or “Luddites”.
In 1854 during the Crimean War, a hopeless and failed British effort was immortalized in Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. “Into the valley of death rode the six hundred…” intones the poem, out of which about 110 were killed and 160 were wounded and there was a 40 percent casualty rate. Again, this is not a “health” event per se, but a senseless disaster that could have been avoided.
There are many other examples from history, but these two serve to underscore the immediate and horrid damage posed by those who, solely on suspicion, opinion, and political partisanship, are unwilling to be objective about reality, the facts, the risks, and simply will not consider COVID-19 vaccination.
In the present day, it is hard to say how many innocent people will be affected by these “Luddites”, fellow citizens who either unwittingly or intentionally put themselves, their family members, their neighbors at grave risk to serious disease and possible death. They do so not because they have thoughtfully identified an “enemy”, but because they do not understand the real enemy.
As the late Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” In short, the battle to end the pandemic in the short run is being thwarted/hindered by the few at the expense of the many.
COVID-19 vaccine facts
What are COVID-19 vaccine facts, as known and objectively presented by international experts?
Among the best is Dr. Peter Hotez, MD, Ph.D., a widely well-respected scientist, the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, and frequent global advisor and commentator. His book, Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science, released March 2, 2021, is invaluable in understanding the challenges faced by science when it is confronted with the unknown. And of course, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the leading authority for multiple U.S. Presidential Administrations over decades.
Dr. Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIA), was certainly placed in his correct position when President Biden chose him to be his chief medical advisor. He is the most highly respected COVID-19 scientific analyst in the world today providing information on this rapidly evolving infectious disease, giving updated advice and counsel on a day-to-day basis, offering a month-to-month pandemic common sense approach in which he incorporates relevant scientific epidemiologic data.
Thankfully, the current Biden administration has anchored its COVID-19 in the “science”, and not political and economic expediency, reversing the previous administration’s misguided politicizing policy of pressuring the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) into fudging the scientific facts about the SARS-CoV-2 prevalence and risks to the American people.
The new leadership is in the hands of a highly competent CDC director, Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. She is wedded to scientific honesty and the truth (as it evolves), to be expected from the premier global public health body which has been a recognized national and international focus in developing disease prevention methodology and controlling environmental health negative effects, and in promoting health education activities designed to advance the U.S. and developing country health results.
Watching the live Senate Hearing On Covid-19 Response on NBC News on May 11, 2021 with Fauci, Walensky, and others testifying was a paradox demonstrating the best guidance vis-à-vis an outrageous, shameful, mendacious, unethical smearing attack on Fauci and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The reckless assailant was a U.S. Senator, who incongruously is a trained physician with a scientific background.
Fauci handled the attack with his usual aplomb and stayed on the high road.
Delusive false prophets and “Pied Pipers” pedaling dangerous lies about the pandemic and efficacy of vaccines, past and present, continue to plague social media, magazines, and irresponsible news outlets. Millions of duped people sadly buy into such treacherous schemes that contribute to unnecessary morbidity, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19.
We must find a way to overcome the poison perpetrated by the anti-science proponents and protagonists and do so with new communication technological tools, or if necessary, laws and regulations that protect those who are doing the right thing from those who put others in jeopardy.
What About Beyond this COVID-19 Pandemic?
Well before the scourge of COVID-19, others along with Dr. Fauci saw that complex human health issues were intimately linked with animal, plant, and environmental factors.
Fauci’s 2018 “One Health Initiative” was a recognition of the interconnectivity, and this is a concept expanding exponentially worldwide today. The One Health approach is being recognized and expanding in the U.S., Europe, and worldwide today.
We need to seize this moment when global priority is on one pandemic to take on a concept that will help contain or avoid the next one.
Note: Richard Seifman, JD, MBA, Former World Bank Senior Health Advisor and U.S. Alternate Representative to Food Agricultural Organization was an invaluable contributor to this article.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — Featured Image: Seven members of the French committee on vaccination rail at Tapp, a health officer in the 7th arrondissement of Paris in the late 1790s, who resisted the new discovery. When asked by the mayor to look into introducing vaccination into that part of the city, he launched an unrestrained attack on what he saw as “une pure charlatannerie”. Colored etching, c 1800, Wellcome Library Collection (CC 4.0)