A Nuanced Perspective on the Challenge of Anti-Vaxxers on the Left: Terry Gips’ Response to Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s Guardian Op-Ed

By Terry Gips, Alliance President

Photograph Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Trump stoked Covid in red states – but there are blue anti-vaxxers too” Op-ed by Robert Reich

Thank you to former US Labor Secretary Dr. Robert Reich for this important article highlighting some of the challenges we face from our fellow progressives on Covid vaccinations and the shockingly 3x higher Covid death rates in Trump counties vs. Biden ones. Given that my mother nearly died from polio when I was a year and a half old (and finally died at 89 from complications from it), I strongly believe in science, vaccinations and masking.

However, the widespread challenge we’re facing requires far more nuance and less contempt, personal attacks and labeling the non-vaxxers as simply narcissists. To start with, given our country’s unethical medical experimentation on Black people (eg, syphilis), there has become a long-term, justified distrust of the medical establishment by many.

On top of that, while most of us have just had minor issues from being vaccinated, there are progressives I know of all ages who have become hesitant given that they have gotten seriously sick for 3-7 days after a vaccination and fear having a second shot. I get their hesitancy.

And finally, and equally important, there’s an additional and growing challenge in even blue states amongst many of my friends and some leaders in the holistic health (witness Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, who I’ve written about previously), yoga, meditation, and organic and natural products communities. They have had a long battle over the acceptance and validity of their efforts with the government and scientific community on so many issues (in most cases, they have ultimately won in terms of acceptance and adoption), combined with a long-term distrust of Big Pharma, Agribusiness, mainstream medicine and government who have openly discredited and battled them.

Shockingly, in some cases, the more we progressives dis and attack this group of anti-vaxxers, the more they are drawn to QAnon and Republicans. This is scary.

As difficult as it is given our strong feelings and science, if we continue our personal attacks assuming we know their inner motives and label them all as narcissists, my fear is that their positions will harden and we will drive them further to the right and we will end up with an uncivil war with those on both the right and left. We’ll all lose.

And sadly, this won’t just affect the outcomes on the Covid pandemic, but our battles on the climate crisis, inequity, threats to democracy and a civil society.

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