2021-05-14-TEENSVAX-1 (copy) (copy)

Claire Angeli administers a vaccine to Daniel McGrory, 15, during a clinic in May in Williamstown. The author says anti-vaxxers toss out terms like civil liberty and freedom and experimental. What we need is freedom from the coronavirus, she says.

RICHMOND — Health officials in this country must sometimes feel like Cassandra, the Troy princess who could see the future clearly and was never believed. The cursed Cassandra told her countrymen that the giant wooden horse they found in the courtyard contained an army of enemy Greeks. They scoffed at her. And the horse spilled out an army that defeated them.

The surgeon general, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and numerous scientists from respected places tell us we can put the coronavirus in a closet and shut the door if we get vaccinated. The virus needs a place to go, a body to infect, room to mutate and get nastier — it is repelled by the vaccinated just as a flea collar helps the dog.

The anti-vaxxers toss out terms like civil liberty and freedom and experimental. What we need is freedom from the virus, and it’s not as if a crew of chemistry majors had poured stuff into a beaker and filled syringes to create that freedom trail.

Responsible companies, conducting extensive trials, challenged their best and worked at warp speed to find a way to stop a raging virus. While they worked, the first batch of naysayers called the virus a hoax and, later, tried to ignore that it had killed more than a half-million Americans.

Post-heart attack, my husband was faced with a potentially lethal heart problem. Two cardiologists, one here and one in Worcester, recommended a medication that they hoped would solve the problem. (A third cardiologist was in favor of surgery.) The problem was that the pills didn’t have final approval, and we’d have to sign a bunch of legal documents before we could get it. We signed. It worked. Swallowing is better than cutting.

That, of course, was a decision that affected only a few people. But, we trusted the scientists, who have been belittled by our former president and restored to respect by our present one. Sometimes you just have to trust someone — and sometimes it’s not the person next door or the lady who sits next to you in church. In life-or-death matters, expertise matters more than rumormongering, gossip or what you hear in a bar.

We are supposed to listen to “the other side.” Accept other cultures, other colors. At least respect whatever “other” we can’t bring ourselves to accept. But, it’s not easy to give listening space to people like the nurse in Houston who had the chutzpah to link the vaccine with Nazis.

Perhaps Marjorie Taylor Greene should give her a tour of the Holocaust Museum in Washington so she’d understand why her comments were met with outrage. The ignorant should not create metaphors they don’t begin to understand.

It’s true that health care workers at that nurse’s hospital faced illness and possible death while dealing with the coronavirus, pre-vaccine. Understandable that memories of those nightmare days make Houston Methodist employees furious about being fired because they refuse to be vaccinated. But, also understandable if a patient in that hospital doesn’t want the unvaccinated taking their blood, bringing their supper tray, changing their sheets and escorting them to the bathroom. And understandable why the head of the hospital says “no vaccine, no job.”

Not easy stuff. But, reportedly, other heads of hospitals are doing the same thing. (One assumes that protesting nurse got a smallpox vaccination as a child, as did almost everyone — and now we don’t get smallpox.)

What remains true is that the virus can’t live without a target, a human body to give it shelter.

And while the vaccinated have a minuscule chance of offering that place, the unvaccinated are an illness waiting to happen.

The freedom to refuse “the jab” infringes on the freedom of the rest of us to live our lives without worrying about getting the deadly bug. In a democracy, the civics teacher told us in high school, one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins.

The big Berkshire clinics have closed, but the mobile unit is still making its rounds, and the testing center near the urgent care clinic on East Street is giving shots. Right now, we’re in a lull in terms of infections. We’d like the pause to be permanent, but it won’t be if we head into fall without the anti-vaxxers lining up for a shot — to protect themselves and us and our freedom to live our lives.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is ruthbass.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.