If you’re anywhere on the Internet today and a conservative, you’ve probably seen what Jeffrey Zients, of the Biden Coronavirus Response Team, said during the White House briefing this weekend. This was the memorable passage:
Our vaccines work against Omicron, especially for people who get booster shots when they are eligible. If you are vaccinated, you could test positive. But if you do get COVID, your case will likely be asymptomatic or mild.
We are intent on not letting Omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this.
For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.
So, our message to every American is clear: There is action you can take to protect yourself and your family. Wear a mask in public indoor settings. Get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get a booster shot when you’re eligible.
When a reporter sensibly observed that this kind of language is the opposite of persuasive, White House chief of staff Ron Klain responded, “The truth is the truth.”
For reasons that are mystifying to me, the White House refuses to note that they have presided over the fastest vaccine uptake in the history of this country, and one of the most successful campaigns in the world. The vast majority of the most vulnerable people have chosen to be immunized against Covid-19.
Instead, still terrified of increased case rates, and perhaps some waning immunity among the vaccinated, the White House has remained mostly silent about how it wants to proceed, and how it envisions a wind-down of this state of emergency. In the meantime, there is this scapegoating of the unvaccinated, which grows less and less plausible by the day as transmission rates among the vaccinated go up, and more and more of the population achieves some level of immunity, even from prior infection.
This is dehumanizing language. And overbroad even by the administration’s own terms. Many children are not eligible for vaccines, and many parents won’t choose to get their children vaccinated anyway, for obvious reasons — the danger posed by Covid to children is so remote and minuscule, and the benefit of reduced transmission among children is so diffuse and potentially tiny. These children won’t have a winter of severe illness and death.
The language also carries the unsubtle message that the government isn’t working for the unvaccinated, a loaded thing to say when the Biden administration has pressed the FDA so hard to approve juvenile vaccines and boosters but seems blasé about approval for effective therapeutic drugs.
And it’s also demented and untrue. Countries with higher vaccination rates than those in the U.S. are still imposing draconian interventions: lockdowns, curfews, closures. So draconian measures cannot be blamed plausibly on the unvaccinated. Attempts to lock down on the unvaccinated had no measurable effect on the seasonal spread experienced in Austria. Vaccine passports showed little or no utility in Scotland, according to the government’s own report.
The vast, vast majority of people who contract Covid from here on out will have some form of immunity to Covid. The vast majority of the unvaccinated will be people in mid life or younger who will survive their encounter with Covid. The administration desperately needs to project confidence in the vaccines, by communicating their hope that this is the beginning of the end.
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