Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

How to Talk to Concerned Church Members Who Are "COVID Policy Doubters" (CPDs)

Some Latter-day Saints, probably only a minority, were frustrated with a recent request from Church leaders. Some of the frustration might be lessened after carefully considering the wording of the very brief First Presidency message of Aug. 12, 2021, with the title "The First Presidency Urges Latter-day Saints to Wear Face Masks When Needed and Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19." As a vaccinated and pro-vaccine member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, today I want to share some thoughts from the surprisingly diverse community of Latter-day Saints who struggle with some COVID policies and who may be struggling with the Aug. 12 First Presidency Message. In today's society,  COVID Policy Doubters (CPDs) are widely dismissed, even ridiculed, and assumed to be selfish or ignorant in their views and their unwillingness to comply with policies from vaunted experts. I feel they deserve to be understood a little better. My aim is to help those who are puzzled by CPDs to recognize that their concerns may be driven by something other than ignorance, immaturity, stubbornness, or a foolish fear of all vaccines. I am not asking you to accept any of their perspectives, but to be able to talk to them by first understanding how seemingly faithful and intelligent people can also be mistrustful of government and be COVID policy doubters.

First, to my CPD friends, please understand that this Aug. 12 First Presidency Statement is a good-faith effort to help us navigate temporary risks that are around us. Let's exercise patience and understanding in  response.  And you may also be grateful to see that the statement did not call for endless lockdowns, vaccine passports, mandatory vaccinations, mandatory masking, further forfeiture of property rights of landlords, shutting down schools again, the closure of churches and synagogues, or trillions of dollars of spending with shady 3,000-page laws packed with corrupt pork that could impoverish the country -- all issues that are concerns to some CPDs. There truly have been some terrible abuses of power that have occurred in the name of "standing together" against COVID. At the same time, there are some things we should worry about, in spite of the bad faith of some parties that may have exploited COVID fears for their own benefit or who acted out of ignorance. Many more have died than a bad flu season would have caused. Now new variants can have unpredictable risks. Yes, our species has lived with viruses and viral mutation for countless generations without the need to shut everything down, and I stand with you in concern about the serious long-term health and economic consequences of lockdowns. But those concerns may fly away when one's family faces the potential tragedy that this strange disease can bring. I hope you'll keep considering the evidence related to vaccination options and be open to it if there aren't clear health factors putting you at risk (consulting with your doctor would be wise here). But I will respect that as your choice. I also hope you'll see the First Presidency Statement as one based on a real concern for our well-being, and recognize that there may yet be more serious health risks in the near future for which these added precautions may be a blessing on the whole for our congregations.

The gist of the First Presidency Statement was simple and reasonable: "To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible. To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated." So in public meetings, if people will necessarily be very close to each other, our leaders will urge masking. Individuals are urged to be vaccinated for their own protection. This is really just asking us to reduce risk appropriately. In fact, with the currently increase in cases and hospitalizations in many parts of the country, this may be the right time to increase our guard for a while. I hope it's a brief period, but let's be patient and faithful through this. 

The First Presidency's short, positive message should not be interpreted to override the personal health issues that may make vaccines or even mask wearing inappropriate for some, including infants and young children, pregnant women, those with certain heart or kidney conditions, some with severe asthma or other respiratory problems, those with certain allergies or skin conditions, etc. See the WHO's guidelines on who should be vaccinated (I apologize if this WHO document does not align with some CDC guidelines or government goals pushing for vaccination of teenagers and ultimately younger children). In any case, it's still your choice, something that may be discussed between you and your doctor but not with the whole ward, and personally I believe that we should respect the medical privacy of others in this matter.

I made my choice and have been vaccinated. I don't mind sharing that bit of my medical history. So far, I think that was wise for an older guy like me who could be at elevated risk with COVID, but I can't guarantee that I won't regret my decision in a few years as we get more data from these experimental vaccines that have been rushed past some of the normal hurdles of long-term safety testing. I think COVID vaccinations are a good idea for many, but I can understand the reasons why some might not want that. Sadly, I think too many of our members have been conditioned to be angry at the unvaccinated and the CPDs. 

Now I'd like to address those who are concerned about the CPDs among us. I'll try to share some glimpses into the wide range of CPD attitudes in hopes that there might be better communication and a touch of understanding. We need communication and understanding, not anger and judgement for those who doubt, even if we may disagree with some of their positions and personal choices.

One Slur Won't Fit All: The Diversity of CPDs

First I must explain that CPDs in the Church and in our communities are surprisingly diverse. Some loud voices make it sound like the CPDs and the unvaccinated (two related by not identical groups) are all less-educated white Republicans from the lowest caste in our society known as the "deplorables." Here I would urge you to consider the data or at least talk to some of the CPDs in your congregation and understand who they are and why they are concerned. The stereotype that the "resistance" is only from the less educated is based on propaganda, not data, in my opinion. A new study from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh gives us some insight into who the unvaccinated are. It's only a pre-print that has not yet gone through peer review, so be cautious, but the survey data may still be helpful and resonates with what I've seen. See Wendy C. King, Max Rubinstein, Alex Reinhart, and Robin J. Mejia, "Time trends and factors related to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy from January-May 2021 among US adults: Findings from a large-scale national survey," MedRxiv.org, July 23, 2021, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.20.21260795v1, with the full-text PDF at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.07.20.21260795v1.full.pdf. One view of the data related to education is provided at Unherd.com, showing that the group most likely to be vaccine-hesitant are those with Ph.D.s. But it's a u-shaped curve, with high hesitancy among the least educated and also among the most-educated. In my experience, regardless of education, the CPDs I've talked to are typically able to articulate reasonable explanations for their views. (Distrust and fear of adverse side effects are not groundless, in my opinion, though I may disagree with how they are weighing risks.)

In terms of ethnicity, the charts at the end of the Carnegie Mellon study show vaccine hesitancy is not unique to whites. Several age groups of Blacks and Native Americans, for example, are quite hesitant to receive COVID vaccines and may align in other ways with CPDs. That includes African American citizens as well African immigrants, a group that is well represented in my part of Wisconsin and which has become an important part of the social life my wife and I enjoy here, with many friends now from DR Congo and neighboring countries. 

A related story from the New York Times is "Why Only 28 Percent of Young Black New Yorkers Are Vaccinated: As the Delta variant courses through New York City, many young Black New Yorkers remain distrustful of the vaccine."  The age 18 to 44 group there has only a 28% vaccination rate, "compared with 48 percent of Latino residents and 52 percent of white residents in that age group." Mistrust of government is a factor in this.

Here I would ask for understanding of what I think may be very rational bases for mistrust of government. For example, for minority Americans and immigrants aware of the tragedy of the Tuskeegee experiment, how can we expect all of them to now trust the government when it asks them to take an expressly experimental drug? As a refresher, here's the opening paragraph from Wikipedia's article on the Tuskegee experiment:

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male (informally referred to as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment or Tuskegee Syphilis Study) was an ethically abusive study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The purpose of this study was to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis. Although the African-American men who participated in the study were told that they were receiving free health care from the federal government of the United States, they were not.

The study of 399 men infected with syphilis and other uninfected men continued to 1972. Contrary to promises, no treatment was ever provided to the men who thought they were being treated, even though the safe, effective, and inexpensive treatment of penicillin had been available since the 1940s. This would adversely affect them, their wives, their children, and other. And who was behind this cruel abuse of ethics and human rights? The Public Health Service and the CDC. So if minorities or anybody else chooses to be skeptical of the CDC now, it's not totally irrational. There's a precedent for justified skepticism.

The CDC also has a page on the tragedy of the Tuskegee experiment which provides much of the same information as the Wikipedia page, though it's not as clear there that the CDC was involved, apart from a note in a timeline that the CDC called for support of the study in 1969. Nowhere is the complicity of the CDC in that study clearly acknowledged. Shouldn't it be, along with an apology? Have they left something out from the data they are sharing about that terrible aspect of US history? Again, I apologize for asking questions that may not align with CDC guidelines, but when I ponder the possible concerns that some Blacks may have when it comes to government policies and experimental treatments, I can understand why there might be some rational hesitancy.

It's not just the unsavory track record of our own government that can cause concern. Immigrants who have come to the US as refugees from dangerous countries have often suffered greatly because of the corruption and failures of government abroad. Trusting and relying on government can get you killed in some countries. They see the US as a much better land of opportunity with better systems, but if they are still hesitant to comply with proclamations of leaders they don't yet know and trust, can we blame them? I didn't blame Kamala Harris when, in her Vice Presidential debate, she expressed concern about taking a vaccine from a government she didn't trust. Many others in her party expressed similar concerns in 2020 when it was the Trump vaccine in the pipeline. That's the pipeline that gave us the vaccines we have now. If it was OK to doubt then, is it so clearly evil to doubt now?

Again, I encourage people to vaccinate, but given that there are risks to any procedure, people should have the right to weigh the risks for themselves and make their own choice. And discussion of risks or posts of adverse reactions should not be summarily censored, as has happened on Twitter and elsewhere. Science requires robust discussion and transparency. Censorship can exacerbate mistrust, at least for those who notice it. In any event, trust or the lack of it is a reasonable factor to consider. Lack of trust in government is not necessarily irrational now, nor was it necessarily irrational in the previous administration.  To compel trust or to compel people to accept an injection from a source they don't trust would be to desecrate the principles that make this nation great.  But let's dig a little deeper now to understand why mistrust in our government's COVID policies have become so strong for some people.

A Common CPD Trait: The Perception of Bad Faith in the CDC and Beyond

Business leaders, community leaders, and leaders of congregations and churches often have experience interacting with political leaders, whether at the local, state, or national level. The interactions often include some aspect of negotiation, seeking to influence and find support for important causes.  In such talks, it is natural to see the good in the other party and to assume that even when they hold different views, that they are basically good people acting in good faith. This generosity of thought makes the world a more civil place and tends to pervade my particular church. Unfortunately, there are also times when the brutal reality of bad faith in others needs to be faced.

Just as those who doubt some COVID policies may be more educated and more diverse than is commonly assumed, their motives also may not be as simple or infantile as their opponents suggest. The growing distrust in government among some people goes far beyond "sour grapes" over a lost election. Many CPDs have sincere questions about the approach of government and media to the COVID pandemic. Tensions among these doubters may be much higher than local leaders recognize. They may be faithful members who seem to follow rules from local leaders on masking, social distancing, curtailing of activities, etc., in spite of their misgivings. But they may now be increasingly troubled by those rules, perhaps reaching a breaking point for some. A few have decided to simply stop attending meetings if they will be pressured to wear a mask or receive an unwanted injection. Some may face particular health challenges that could increase the risk of adverse effects from vaccination, while perhaps a greater number may object as a matter of principle or for other reasons.

While there is a spectrum of concerns among the doubters I am discussing, a surprisingly common aspect among the more educated CPDs, in my opinion, is the perception of bad faith in the CDC and broader federal government. This comes as a surprise to many whose perception of current events comes largely from mainstream media and their social media feeds. Social media posts that criticize the CDC or make statements contrary to CDC policies are often deleted or otherwise hidden from the eyes of other in the name of preventing harmful misinformation and our modern media tends to be enthusiastically on board with most policies and pronouncements of our current administration. I am taking a risk in even discussing why some CPDs see bad faith in the government. Seriously, bad faith in one of our most trusted organizations? "What's wrong with these CPD lunatics?" you might ask.

Please allow me to offer a different way of looking at things -- or rather, a different direction. Let's begin by looking south to see why some CDPs, when it comes to trust in their government, have already crossed their own Rubicon, or, perhaps, their own Rio Grande. 

First, Look South: A Simple Act That Can Affect CPD Perspectives

Take a moment to reflect on the pandemic and our nation in a different light. For many months now, we have been asked to make sacrifices of many kinds to cope with the overwhelming dangers of COVID. Many of us lost jobs, some lost businesses that were shut down with what sometimes seemed arbitrary decisions that favored the biggest or most connected businesses, many children lost a year or more of education, many lost the ability to visit dying relatives, we couldn't visit friends or get together at church, and now we are even being told that parents should social distance from their own kids. Travel was shut down. To this day, it's nearly impossible for US citizens to simply go across the border and return to the US to visit family or friends in low-COVID Canada. Most American citizens were good sports about all this sacrifice in the name of slowing the spread, flattening the curve, and helping the nation in a time of unusual peril. It was supposed to be for two weeks. Then four. Then eight. Now it's been over 18 months and it looks like the sacrifices must go on forever, along with an incredible expansion in spending by government and a similar expansion in their power. All for our good because the crisis is so severe that every means possible must be taken to avert it. 

One's attitude about all this sacrifice can change quickly by simply looking in one direction: south, to the massive border crisis that receives very little attention from our government and its allies in the media.

Take a look at our southern border. What you may not have heard from your news sources is that COVID is now raging among the massive increase in undocumented immigrants surging across the southern border, yet they are often being released into or allowed into our nation without being subject to the same COVID restrictions the rest of us face, and even known or suspected positive cases are being allowed to enter and stay. See, for example, "Illegal immigrants being sent to major Texas cities without COVID tests" from the New York Post. How can a porous border without strict efforts to keep COVID from entering the United States be squared with the sacrifices being asked of the rest of us if doing whatever is needed to fight COVID really is so essential for this nation? To ignore sick people walking freely across the border just might point to one terrible conclusion in the minds of many who read or see what is happening on our southern border: our government may not be acting in good faith. It can easily appear that they are either allowing a deadly disease to spread without concern, or that they aren't really worried about the disease as much as they are about politics. Either way, bad faith seems to be involved. But maybe that's wrong. I'm open to other ideas. If you have a better explanation, please share it here so we can help doubters to overcome one of the biggest factors stirring doubts. But at least understand that for those who have seen the border crisis unfold and the seemingly willful neglect of a potentially significant route for COVID entry into the US, it's not irrational to believe that the government's use of the COVID crisis to justify bigger spending and bigger power grabs may not be driven by a sincere desire to just follow the science. It smells of bad faith, or at least it can to an educated person looking closely at the southern border. 

Next, Look East to Provincetown and India

A few weeks ago millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the CDC announced that we could back down on masking guidelines. Then recently, the CDC leaked information to the New York Times about shocking new data indicating that a return to tough measures was needed. Then the CDC study was released which gives data for an outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts during July 3 to 17, showing that many "breakthrough" cases of COVID in vaccinated people had occurred and that the frightening delta variant was highly involved. This was said to justify new guidelines for more masking. We were warned by the CDC that just being vaccinated is not enough, for the study shows that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus. The CDC's Aug. 6, 2021 report on this outbreak says:

On July 27, CDC recommended that all persons, including those who are fully vaccinated, should wear masks in indoor public settings in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high or substantial.* Findings from this investigation suggest that even jurisdictions without substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies, including masking in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, given the potential risk of infection during attendance at large public gatherings that include travelers from many areas with differing levels of transmission. [emphasis mine]

The study indicates that 469 cases of COVID-19 erupted in Provincetown, and that 74% or 346 of these cases were in fully vaccinated people. Of those, 274 (79%) were symptomatic. "Among five COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized, four were fully vaccinated; no deaths were reported." The study reports without commentary that 85% of those who had COVID were male, a seemingly unusual occurrence. What is also not reported is how many people were in Provincetown, a town with a population of about 3,000. Were there nearly 500 cases among just 3,000 people? Or was the denominator much greater? 

The study actually provides what could be viewed as some good news that seems to have been ignored by the media and the CDC: while the vaccine is not 100% effective, meaning that there is still some risk of getting COVID, as we have always known, very few people needed to be hospitalized and nobody died. The vaccine is working. But yes, delta is highly transmissible and is spreading, and sadly, this will lead to further deaths, especially among the elderly and those with other serious health issues.

What the CDC didn't share in their pronouncements about the Provincetown report or the report itself, a report that was used to change COVID recommendations for all of us, is that what happened in Provincetown was unrepresentative of typical conditions in the United States. It was an extreme outlier, in fact. The study of this anomaly cannot be wisely and reasonably used to make blanket policies for the rest of the nation. 

As a neutral USA Today article notes about the Provincetown event, "Although not mentioned in the [CDC] report, the outbreak overlapped with July Fourth weekend and 'Bear Week,' Provincetown’s annual gathering of gay men; 85% of the identified infections were in males. In the summer, the town’s population swells to approximately 60,000 people." Provincetown is a famous party town, especially in the gay community. Gay men from all over the country gather to party at this time, causing a small town of 3,000 people swells to about 60,000, many of whom are packed into bars and restaurants. There's a lot of socializing going on, including plenty of kissing, one of the best ways to spread a respiratory virus. Crowds packed into small enclosures in old buildings with old ventilation systems coupled with kissing and romance in the air, along with plenty of viruses, is a perfect storm for spreading COVID. Speaking of storms, rain during the time period in question also kept a lot of these people indoors, exacerbating the risk of spreading disease.

Here I do not wish to propagate old stereotypes of gay men being irresponsible. My impression is that they are highly vaccinated, more than the US average. In fact, I just checked and one recent survey from July 2021 shows 92% of those in the LGBTQ+ community have had at least one vaccine shot for COVID. That's great news. But the bad news is that CDC failed to let Americans know that the outbreak in Provincetown occurred under unusual conditions in a rather unusual town. 

Many sources reported the study as if it showed vaccines aren't working, for 74% of the COVID cases were among the vaccinated. But first note that the visitors to Provincetown were probably even more highly vaccinated than the highly vaccinated locals. If, for example, the 50,000 or so tourists that may have been partying at this time were 100% vaccinated, and if the only locals who left their home were also vaccinated, could there have been an outbreak? Yes, of course, for vaccination does not prevent all infection, but according to the CDC, may reduce the risk of COVID by about 90% and even though some vaccinated people can still get infected, the vaccination is valuable in reducing the severity of the infection. So if we had only 100% vaccinated people partying in Provincetown, some could still get the disease -- and guess what the statistics would then show? We could have headlines like "100% of those infected were vaccinated!" Should that be shocking? No, it would be fully expected. If there were 60,000 people sharing close quarters with occasional sharing of infection during the peak of Bear week in Provincetown, having 469 cases break out means less than 1% were infected by being present under ideal conditions for spreading the disease, and only 1% of that 1% (a total of less than 0.01%) ended up being hospitalized. And again, zero deaths. For this, we need to panic? 

The real number of cases may be higher because many without symptoms may not have been tested and some who were sick may have already left the area and returned home before showing symptoms or being tested. It's possible the number of infections may have been several times higher than the reported 469, but again, as far as we know, there were no deaths. This is good news. The fact that some of the many vaccinated people present got COVID is completely expected. But for some of us, the CDC's use of this study and its failure to give the context was irresponsible, and suggest that the goal was justifying an agenda rather than simply being transparent and following the science. Yes, to some CPDs, that's a sign of bad faith. 

The CDC also used the Provincetown study to argue that the "viral load" of vaccinated people who get COVID is the same as those who aren't vaccinated, meaning that they can be just as effective in transmitting the disease since they are producing large numbers of virus. This was an important part of the  narrative spread by the CDC, but it's an justified statement based on the study -- though I wonder if any mainstream journalists noticed that.  

Here's what the CDC study actually reported: 

Finally, Ct value [the cycle count required in PCR testing to get measurable evidence of the virus]  obtained with SARS-CoV-2 qualitative RT-PCR diagnostic tests might provide a crude correlation to the amount of virus present in a sample and can also be affected by factors other than viral load.††† Although the assay used in this investigation was not validated to provide quantitative results, there was no significant difference between the Ct values of samples collected from breakthrough cases and the other cases. This might mean that the viral load of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons infected with SARS-CoV-2 is also similar. However, microbiological studies are required to confirm these findings. [emphasis mine]

A speculative possibility that was not confirmed and needs further work to see if it's true was elevated to a shocking "fact" to be spread across the nation, again, without context. Already it looks like there might be some good reasons to doubt the assumptions the CDC is making, especially in light of a Singapore study, as reported by Jacob Sullum at Reason.com in "The Evidence Cited by the CDC Does Not Show That Vaccinated and Unvaccinated COVID-19 Carriers Are Equally Likely To Transmit the Virus," Aug. 4, 2021.  Also see Sullum's related July 29 article.

Here's how CNN conveyed the message about viral load: 

A new study shows the Delta Covid-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected – illustrating a key motivation behind the federal guidance that now recommends most fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors.

Experts say that vaccination makes it less likely that you’ll catch Covid-19 in the first place – but for those who do, this data suggests they could have a similar tendency to spread it as unvaccinated folks.

“High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement Friday.

Don't blame CNN for misunderstanding the study, though. The Director of the CDC herself spoke about "high viral loads" as if that's what the Provincetown study examined. Here's her official statement from July 30, 2021:

Today, some of those data were published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), demonstrating that Delta infection resulted in similarly high SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. High viral loads suggest an increased risk of transmission and raised concern that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with Delta can transmit the virus. This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation. The masking recommendation was updated to ensure the vaccinated public would not unknowingly transmit virus to others, including their unvaccinated or immunocompromised loved ones.

Setting national policy based on speculative assumptions isn't following the science, it's dragging the science with a chain -- or at least an educated person could feel that way. They could feel that what the CDC did with the Provincetown study was anything but scientific. They could feel that it was manipulation to achieve a political goal, an act of bad faith. I don't think that conclusion can be dismissed as entirely irrational.

The apparent bad faith was also manifest in the other study, a study from India that the CDC relied on to justify masking and fear for the vaccinated. They cited a study in India that was actually rejected by peer review and involved a vaccine that is not used in the US. Using a rejected study without mentioning its status does not engender trust.

Other CDC errors have contributed to the sense among some that the CDC is not always acting in good faith. One example is the recent claim from the CDC that the delta variant is as contagious as chicken pox, which even got rare push back from NPR. These errors always seem to be in the same direction: the direction of increasing fear, alarm, and justification for government spending and doing more.


From an Aug. 11 NPR Story Shared by WKU FM in Kentucky

Finally, for those who still think CPDs are ignorant for believing that the CDC might not always act in good faith, what are we to make of the CDC's utterly unconstitutional moratorium on the ability of property owners to enforce contracts and evict people who don't pay rent? It can be argued that this overrides the basic premise of rule of law and is a step closer to the Cultural Revolution than the principles of liberty this nation was founded upon. Yes, it sounds nice to suddenly give people free rent for a while at the expense of someone else. But the people who work and save to obtain rental property are people also, and what right, one might ask, does a public health agency have to tell people what they can or cannot do with their rental property? Even after the Supreme Court told the current administration that this was wrong, the response was to go ahead and extend the moratorium because by the time it could be fought in the courts, they'd get what they wanted already. That's contrary to the rule of law, contrary to the principle of upholding the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights, and a cynical expression of a willingness to act in bad faith. If they'll do that, can we trust them to act with the best of faith in anything else? Again, that's at least the position that a rational person who has read the Constitution and the news of the CDC's actions could take. If politics can come above the rule of law, can it come above the reign of science? I don't think such concerns are irrational. 

Talking to CPDs About Masks

There may be a legitimate debate about the various positions our officials have taken regarding masks and the use or abuse of science in taking the position, but I choose to wear a mask where it is required and believe that that's the right thing to do for most of us. I also think that's the approach most Latter-day Saints and even most CPDs will take in light of the recent First Presidency Statement. But it would still be helpful, in my opinion, to understand that the objections many CPDs may have to US masking policies may not be based on selfishness or immaturity.

When we have recommendations that seem contradictory, such as government declarations that masks are not effective except for trained medical professionals, followed later by declarations that we all must wear masks or maybe even two masks, all apparently driven at times by politics and not science, it's hard for CPDs to feel much reverence for the vacillating experts. When numbers are used in deceptive ways, as happened in Illinois recently to justify mask mandates, trust in government officials is not strengthened. If officials are just following the science, why be tricky? There's a good article that by Jeffrey Anderson at City Journal on the questionable science and contradictory stances related to masks mandates that reflects the concerns of some CPDs. Before we assume that mask-hesitant CPDs, including vaccinated CPDs,  are deniers of science and spreaders of death who need to shamed, it would be wise to read it and at least understand some of the science-related and logical issues that many CPDs might have. I won't link to that article directly due to the repercussions that might be inflicted for sharing masking information based on peer-reviewed studies that don't comply with the policy of the moment from the CDC. Instead, please use this TinyUrl shortcut to a trusted source, the CDC, and be careful not to alter the shortcut by, say, foolishly deleting the trailing number. The trusted CDC article can be accessed at the shortcut https://tinyurl.com/masking-science0. Keep that zero at the end, or else! 

In talking with what may be a minority of CPDs who disagree with the need to mask at church, I think it would be helpful to first read some of the scientific and well-reasoned critiques that have been made of US policies and the behaviors of our leaders. By doing so, you may better understand that for some CPDs, again, there is a question of bad faith that may be part of their concerns. Recognizing and acknowledging  the rational basis for their concerns can be a useful way to begin a conversation aimed at understanding their issues and helping them to also be aware of your concerns for your congregation. I believe that many or at least some CPDs who initially seem non-compliant can become more willing to accept policies for your congregation through meaningful dialog and loving, respectful encouragement, and perhaps a perspective of respect for their views can be used to coax those who disagree angrily with the CPDs to be more patient. But please understand that there may be legitimate concerns and sometimes genuine health or other issues that make masking a challenge. I hope you can work with them, be accommodating when possible, and find a way to heel the deep fractures that may arise between members of the Church over COVID controversies. 

How Do We Know Which Government Recommendations Are the "Wise and Thoughtful" Ones?

Finally, I wish to address what may be the most challenging wording in the First Presidency Statement. Some CPDs might have been most concerned about the bold sentence under the title of the statement: "We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders.” I must explain that I can fully agree with this sentence. We should all be willing to follow "the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders." But which ones are wise and thoughtful, which are purely political, and which are wrong, deceptive, dangerous, or in bad faith? I personally think we should initially assume that policies are issued in good faith, but if there are serious scientific, logical, or ethical issues that are evident or later uncovered, it would seem reasonable to at least be able to question those policies. I recognize that such a stance may be viewed as dangerous and subversive in some countries, but in the systems we still have (so I hope) in the United States, good citizens ought to be able to raise such questions and push back through legal and appropriate means. 

Of course, when the statement was written, it was likely considering specific recent recommendations, such as masking in high-risk areas, a recommendation which I think is wise. But the recommendations we receive from local, state, and federal authorities are not always consistent and may vary from place to place and over time. We need to exercise some degree of judgment in dealing with the policies and proclamations of mortals.

I don't think it's possible for us to assume that all government policies are inherently wise and thoughtful. In fact, we would fail in our duties as citizens if we took that passive, apathetic attitude. Sadly, as we read the Book of Mormon and its many warnings about the "works of darkness" and "secret combinations" in their day and ours, we must be at least aware that there may be occasionally be some bad actors who, as in the days of the Nephites and Jaredites, rise to positions of power in society, often seeking to ruthlessly expand their power and control. Our Founding Fathers were highly mistrustful of power in the hands of men, and rightly so, based on the lessons of history. They sought to limit the power that any one man or group of men could exert through strict limits and abundant checks and balances, many of which have been eroded in recent decades. Some CPDs are worried about the abuse of power by government officials, at the local, state, and national levels. There may be a need for healthy skepticism when it comes to the deeds of mortals these days. I'm not saying we need to suspect "secret combinations" at every turn, but really that we must be aware of human failings, whether it is lust for power, greed, conflicts of interest, or just plain old bad decision making.

We don't believe prophets to be infallible, and this may be a good time to recognize that politicians and their allies given the political keys of public health power may be equally or more fallible than the Lord's prophets and apostles.  So what do we do when officials and vaunted experts aren't always "wise and thoughtful" or when we have good evidence that their recommendations are contradictory, politicized, incoherent, or not based on credible science? Must we treat their proclamations as infallible?

Of course, nobody is infallible on everything, but are our public leaders at least relatively infallible when it comes to COVID policies? And if so, when? When they tell us masks don't work for us ordinary people, or that we absolutely must mask? And is it their words that are infallible, or their actions (thinking of the steady stream of elites who tell us to social distance and mask, and are then seen attending restaurants or crowded parties without masks)? There may be moments of infallibility in there, but for CPDs, the contradictions, the steadily shifting goalposts, and the seemingly endless excuses for why politicians must hold on to and expand the power they have grabbed raises certain doubts. If their proclamations, however contradictory or unscientific, become the law of the land,  CPDs who are faithful Latter-day Saints will likely seek to respect the law in spite of objecting to it, consistent with their duties as citizens and Article of Faith #12, but they may also wish to use the democratic process to push back in some appropriate way. That may be a sound path even for those who are comfortable with the policies we've been given so far.

To be good citizens, we should keep an eye on the actions of our leaders and require them to act in good faith. That requires staying informed and aware. So I suggest that we should just do the best we can to study these things out in our own minds and apply some scientific and logical tools. Let's examine the statements and actions of our political and medical leaders and trust when trust is warranted. Policies and proclamation that can withstand scrutiny and are able to withstand peer review, logical tests, and the smell test, might be deemed as "of good report" and embraced. When it comes to the our health and the welfare of our families, paying attention and trying to make wise, informed decisions is a good idea. But if we are confident that other agencies are truly following the science wisely and we trust them, then we can relax for a while and simply follow what they say. Our choice.

How to deal with all the noise of life and evaluate what government is doing? Perhaps it comes down  to teaching our people, our children, our students, and our congregations correct principles, and then letting them govern themselves. I apologize again if that view does not comply with the latest goals of the CDC, but I think that's a principle that can stand the test of time. At least some CPDs might agree, but given their diversity, certainly not all. 

So what should a local church leader do with CPDs who are struggling with a unit's policies? It's a tough call, but one suggestion might be to talk to them and begin by recognizing that they may have serious reasons, possibly with some merit, for their concerns. Listen and discuss with respect. Share perspectives from our leaders and from your experience, and solicit their support where it is needed. Be patient, find workarounds, respect their agency, ask for their support, encourage others in the ward not to be angry or hostile, and keep moving Zion forward without compulsory means. Let's hope that these challenges will soon be things of the past as we focus on the things that matter most eternally.


 




50 comments:

Anonymous said...

You sound like a company man.
https://townhall.com/columnists/wayneallynroot/2021/08/15/if-trump-were-president-not-one-democrat-in-america-would-be-vaccinated-n2594143

Anonymous said...

Maybe you need a refresher on the vaccine distrust being expressed in 2020 by those who want to mandate it now.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anonymous, I'm puzzled by the ad hominem "company man" (one of the weaker names I've been called recently) and your link to what I consider to be an irresponsible post by someone at TownHall. A wild claim of 500,000 deaths or injuries is made without data. Is that your point, that I'm making wild claims without substantiation and thus can be ignored? That makes me think you have not read much of my post and aren't really interested in intellectual engagement, just knee-jerk dismissal. "Oh, you have questions. You must be a hysteric moron."

For those who make the mistake of reading the link Anonymous provided, let me explain why I object. Yes, it's true that there can be adverse effects from vaccination, which is one of the reasons that choice, not force, needs to be involved. But the rant linked to makes it sound like the vaccines are wildly unsafe, which they are not. "500,000 deaths and injuries" -- what is the basis for that and what does it really mean? The author doesn't say. Garbage. There's garbage like this on the right and left, and in the pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine rants. But we should turn to data and logic for these matters. The VAERS database was mentioned -- so why didn't the author show us some data from it?

People can go to the VAERS database and search for results directly. Read the disclaimer, click on the "I have read the disclaimer button," then click in "Search CDC Wonder." On the page that comes up, under the default "About" tab, scroll down to the bottom and click on "I Agree" (after reading the text carefully first, of course). Scroll up and and click on the button, "VAERS Data Search." You can then choose symptom type of "Death" and search. You'll see that in 2021, there were 5,271 deaths reported in the database. It does not mean that all these deaths were due to the vaccine. Sometimes people would have died a few weeks after the vaccine anyway. My understanding is that this level of deaths is not unusual among the many millions who were vaccinated. I don't believe there's a cause for alarm.

There are about 440,000 entries since COVID vaccinations began. Perhaps this is the number, improperly rounded to 500,000, that stirred the passions of the ranter. But entries just mean that something was experienced in the weeks or months after COVID that was reported to the database. It doesn't mean a serious injury occurred. And it doesn't mean that the vaccine caused the problem. But it could be useful data eventually. Symptoms reported might include backpain, getting a biopsy for a skin disorder, etc. And the deaths can include death of a spouse or even a pet. There's a lot of granular data and many possibilities that need to be considered before one can reasonably claim that the vaccines are obviously unsafe. They are not, as far as I can tell. But I'll leave that decision to you.

Meanwhile, don't trust alarmist rants on either side of any debate that make claims not backed up by evidence or data or some kind.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

Thanks for tackling a lot of aspects of people's concerns with the current pandemic situation.

Steve

Jeff Lindsay said...

Thanks, Steve. If there are issues that are important to the people you know that I didn't mention, please let me know. There are some other issues, such as those raised by students at Loyola University in what may be an important judicial decision supporting religious liberty.

Anonymous said...

That's a lot of ink to try to obfuscate the irresponsibility and recklessness of people who insist on remaining not only dangerous to themselves but to others. Surely there are some isolated cases of people who should not be vaccinated and possibly some who can't mask themselves (though I am chronically asthmatic, aged and not in very good physical condition and manage to conduct my affairs wearing one very well). But I doubt those legitimate exceptions could rise to the 40+% of Americans who continue to spend the virus and offer themselves up as petri dishes for additional variants to come.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon at 3:55, when leaders like Cuomo, Harris, Biden, and others were expressing an unwillingness to take the vaccine from a government they didn't trust (the "refresher" link above might be a good reminder), did you happen to go on record explaining how irresponsible and reckless it was for them to be vaccine hesitant? Would love to see you comments then. If Trump were still President and was telling us we all needed to comply and get the vaccine that he rushed to market, would your tune change? I wouldn't blame you if you did.

I'm glad you acknowledge that there are people who are at risk with vaccines. There is a very slight risk even for young people. The risk is not absolutely zero for anybody, though I feel it's small enough to be worth the risk, especially for us older but healthy adults. So when there are actual risks that need to be weighed, who should weigh them and make the decision for the person facing the risk? Would that person be you, by chance? Or a politician? Why?

How would you explain your views to people who, recalling the Tuskegee experiment, feel they cannot not trust the government to make health care decisions for them and inject them with a drug that has not had the normal lengthy safety testing but is an experimental drug? Name calling? Mocking their education? Justifying the great and trustworthy science of the Tuskegee program that wasn't all that long ago? Or would you be willing to recognize that some people have legitimate concerns and need to make their own decisions?

Derek said...

I am a long-time follower and an admirer of your apologetic work. I appreciate your well reasoned and fair analysis at what drives vaccine policy dissenters. You've been far more charitable than most. As an active participant in the discussions occurring amongst concerned citizens both in the Church and out of the Church, I wish to point out some additional factors driving this movement.

1) Personal Experience

For decades, children and adults have suffered serious, long-term, or even fatal injuries from vaccines currently on the market. The only publicly available data on the actual injury rate in the U.S. is VAERS; however, one study has suggested that as few as 1% of injuries are ever reported in VAERS. Sadly, victims of vaccine injuries will never get their day in court. Their constitutional right to a trial by jury has been stripped away, and they are left with almost no legal recourse aside from the deeply problematic National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

Patients and families impacted by vaccine injuries have long awaited their #MeToo moment, when they can speak openly about their experiences without being disbelieved, slandered, or victim shamed. Sadly, that day is yet to come. Statements by civic or ecclesiastical leaders which dismiss the genuine risks associated with any vaccine feel like salt in the wound to those of us whose lives will never be the same because of a vaccine injury. Until our stories are acknowledged and validated by civic and ecclesiastical leaders, how can there be mutual trust?

While I can share numerous examples from the groups I participate in of those whose concerns are rooted in such personal experiences, I will share just one. This was posted this morning in a social media group for Latter-day Saints concerned about vaccine mandates.

"Well, it's now extremely personal. My 45 year old daughter was pressured by her children to get the [vaccine] or she couldn't be around her grandchildren because she could infect them with [COVID-19]. She got the first [dose] and in 24 hours went into heart failure. Rushed to the hospital. Diagnosis with some clinical condition called PVCs where the heart no longer fills with blood to pump blood throughout her body when her heart rhythm fires. Her cardiologist told her not to get the second [dose]. She's looking at getting a pace maker. She could have died. I'm beside myself. I've cried all day." (references to COVID-19 and vaccines were obscured in the original post to evade censorship)

Derek said...

2) Personal Revelation

Long before the First Presidency voiced their position on this debate, faithful Latter-day Saints everywhere followed President Nelson's counsel to seek personal revelation in their lives. Virtually everyone I have interacted with in Latter-day Saint anti-vax circles have studied the matter deeply and prayed to know what is right. Each of them has felt the unmistakeable voice of the Spirit confirm in their hearts that they are making the right choice. As I'm sure you know, when the Spirit testifies to you, almost nothing can sway you.

How do anti-vaxers within the Church handle the dissonance between the answers they have received to prayer and the counsel they have received from living prophets? For many it is a struggle. Some have lost faith in their leaders. Many have looked to past teachings on prophetic fallibility, or examples in Church history when prophetic fallibility has been on full display, for direction on how to remain faithful to a prophet you feel is wrong about one thing but still divinely authorized to lead the Church. I and many others have echoed the following sentiment, which I shall express using words I recently posted on social media.

"It's obvious that all of us, including our Church leaders, are very concerned about what is taking place inside our bodies right now. But what if Heavenly Father isn't? What if the reason one Church member/leader can push a worldly agenda that they think is for the greater good, another can comply out of sincere obedience, and another can dissent out of principled reasoning, and ALL of them can feel the Spirit reaffirming their decision, is that "the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Sickness, death, and partisan agendas may all seem like big deals to us, but in an eternal perspective, are they?...In the scriptures, when the Lord intervenes in such things, it's usually for instructive purposes, such as to encourage humility or faith. I firmly believe that God is pleased with our decision when our reasons are humble and pure, even if we don't all make the same decisions or have the same reasons. Everything we're worried about now: the sicknesses caused by both bug and drug, the shifting of power within society, etc.; all of this will be made right in due time through the Atonement. Our task is merely to ready or hearts." (I chose words "bug" and "drug" instead of COVID-19 and vaccine to evade censorship)

How hurtful it is when church members and local leaders tell anti-vaxers that they do not follow the prophet or are not receiving the right answers to their prayers!

Derek said...

3) Differing Ethical Theories

Correct me if I am wrong, but your blog post appears to be built on the premise that the desirability of receiving the vaccine can be measured by simply weighing the risks and benefits associated with it. This seems quite logical, but are there other valid approaches to this question?

There seems to be a lot of weighing going on in this debate. Public messaging has successfully framed the entire pandemic response debate as a consequentialist/utilitarian quest for the greatest good. To be sure, I have carefully considered the risks and benefits associated with the vaccine and other public health recommendations and have chosen to include a number of variables in that calculation which big pharma might prefer I ignore. My interest in this calculation is not to determine whether the risks outweigh the benefits or vice versa. Rather, I feel we have a duty as a society to accurately represent the risks/benefits of any health recommendation in order to ensure informed consent. I do not feel we are doing an adequate job of this at all. Based on the information you present in your post, I think you might agree.

Then there is the question of what weight to assign to different variables. How do we weigh a life lost to infections disease? Do we apply the same weight to a life lost to a man-made pharmaceutical product, or a different weight? What about deaths vs. years of life lost? Similarly, how do we weigh illness caused by natural and man-made causes? How do we measure human suffering? Hunger? The loss of human rights? Lost friendships and family relationships? Lost income? Shifting distribution of wealth and power? Even from a consequentialist perspective, there is much more to this debate than simply, "Am I more likely to die this year of COVID or the vaccine?"

But for me and many others, the decision to not be vaccinated has little to do with what we perceive the likely consequences of that decision to be. Rather, many of us base our ethical decisions on deontological/Kantian ethics. I'm a novice at best when it comes to ethics and philosophy. I'm not sure I can adequately construct or defend a categorical imperative that represents my position. But I know that I feel innately motivated by certain duties. One of those duties is to avoid any action which could cause a healthy person, including myself, to die an unnatural death. This is the basic ethical duty underlying "first, do no harm". It prevents me from seeking or recommending many medical treatments, including vaccines. It is why I would rather die of COVID a thousand times than die of the vaccine once. It is why I was able to peacefully accept my grandmother dying of COVID in January, but was deeply angered when my other grandmother suffered a heart attack a few months later after receiving the vaccine. Similarly, I also feel a duty to avoid any action which is likely to empower a harmful cultural institution within our society. This duty influences many other aspects of my life, such as where I work and where I spend my money. There are certain cultural institutions which stand to grow drastically as a result of various public health measures currently being promoted. Whether my decisions are likely to change that or not, I feel duty-bound to make a stand.

Derek said...

Final thoughts

I was informed recently that if I fail to be vaccinated, I will be fired from my job. I have spoken with so many who are in the same position and are standing up for their rights. So many anti-vaxers are willing to sacrifice their jobs, their friends, their family relationships, and even their lives for what they feel is right. We are not hesitant; we are resolved. We've seen the enormous protests that have taken place in Paris, Montreal, and in cities around the world. There is a growing appetite for peaceful protests here in the U.S., and they are starting. There are those who seek to eliminate us by persuasion or force. We do not seek to eliminate anyone. We do not seek power. We seek only the right to live our lives according to the dictates of our own conscience. Please, anyone who reads this, be respectful. Let us live and worship together in peace and harmony, just as we did before this pandemic. No persuasion needed.

Anonymous said...

And my daughter has an autoimmune disease and while she can fight off infections, the result of her immune system being rallied into action can also cause it to attack her body. Her autoimmune disease can compilate her life and is even life threatening (we caught it early - quite by accident and it is on the very mild end of the spectrum for now). If the vaccine gets approved for children in her age group then she will get vaccinated as the doctors have assured us that vaccines will not kick her immune system into high gear where it becomes life threatening. As for the people who refuse to get vaccinated? Well, unfortunately, we keep ourselves at arm's length from them because we don't want to risk infection in our daughter.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Derek, one can easily put together a Kantian argument for vaccination. Leaving out the details, it would go something like this:

If other people's decision to take the (admittedly small) risk of vaccination leads to, and then maintains, herd immunity, I will no longer be at risk of infection myself. I will then have violated the Categorical Imperative because I will in effect have used others as a means to my own end.

Or, to use the other formulation of the Categorical Imperative, I cannot will my own choice to be the universal choice, because the universalization of my own choice means herd immunity would not be achievable at all.


To put it in the simplest terms, if you refuse to get vaccinated and then benefit from herd immunity, you're freeloading.

-- OK

Unknown said...

The herd immunity argument is very weak right now. The data from CDC, and many other health organizations shows that herd immunity cannot be conferred by the vaccine. The Ro is well above 1.0 for the delta variant, even among vaccinated populations.

Derek said...

Anonymous,

I do not question the validity of your Kantian arguments. It is obvious you are more well versed in Kantian ethics than I am, a subject I claimed no expertise in from the start. I was hoping someone more astute in the discipline would chime in, and I'm glad you did.

Like the prevailing utilitarian arguments, however, your particular arguments depend on certain assumptions about the risk/benefit ratio of the vaccines and about the nature of herd immunity. There are many vaccine skeptics who would gladly engage in an endless debate on both of these assumptions. To me this feels like "Bible bashing," a quite uncomfortable waste of time that I learned to avoid as a young Latter-day Saint missionary. You undoubtedly have ample evidence you can cite to justify your position, and so do I. Regurgitating this competing evidence is unlikely to produce a winner, but will undoubtedly have other undesirable effects.

My point in seeking to spark a conversation on deontological ethics, despite my confessed ignorance in the subject, is two-fold. First, I wish to point out the futility of the above mentioned risk/benefit debate in persuading many holdouts whose reasons for abstinence are ultimately rooted in social, philosophical, and moral principles which do not depend on the outcome of that debate. Second, I wish to promote a spirit of tolerance and respect between those who choose to be vaccinated, and those who choose to abstain. I believe that taking a step back from the utilitarian framework we've been handed and reflecting seriously on the principles, values, and assumptions underlying one another's positions is the best way to foster this respect.

Perhaps I am reading between the lines, but in asserting so succinctly that there are valid Kantian arguments which can be used to support the use of these vaccines, is it your intent to argue inversely that there is NO valid Kantian argument which can be used to support abstinence? It is not my object to question the sincerity or validity of your position. Is it your object to question the sincerity or validity of mine?

Anonymous said...

Unknown 2:29, Ro only applies to infected people infecting others who have no immunity. By itself, the fact that Ro is greater than 1.0 in breakthrough cases does not mean the vaccine cannot lead to herd immunity. As long as the percentage of breakthrough cases remains small enough, herd immunity is readily achievable. This is how we have brought highly infectious diseases like measles (Ro=12+) under control.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

Derek, just get the @#$%%! vaccine already. Don't be another ironic punchline. Just get the jab. Do it as soon as possible if you care about anyone other than yourself. I can't believe this is an issue. You aren't a philosopher, and you aren't an epidemiologist. You're being lied to. A prophet of God told you to do it, so do it.

I say this with all the power of my soul. Too many have lost loved ones. Too many have died.

Derek said...

Anonymous,

I will list out your assertions as I understand them and will respond to them individually.

Assertion A: I have misrepresented my qualifications as it relates to the fields of philosophy and epidemiology.

Response: I believe I have been quite transparent about my qualifications, or lack thereof, in these fields. To clarify, my undergraduate degree is in a healthcare-related field. However, I pivoted in grad school, completed two years of graduate studies in accounting, then pivoted again and earned my M.S. in Information Technology. My professional accomplishments are primarily in the technology field.

Assertion B: I am believing lies.

Response: I hear the words "lies" and "misinformation" used quite often in this debate and in public messaging. As is all too often the case, you have chosen to use these words without citing a single statement I have made which you find to be inaccurate. You have not presented any counter evidence to any of my arguments. This is not debate; it is hate.

Assertion C: I am not following the prophet if I do not get the "@#$%%! vaccine" (your language, not mine).

Response: Here again, you seem to be using words as weapons, rather than seeking to discuss or debate the issues. I addressed this issue at length in my original comment, and you've not challenged any of the arguments I made there.

Assertion D: I do not care about those who are dying of COVID.

Response: As stated in my original post, I too lost a close family member to COVID in January of this year. At this moment, I have two family members in the hospital with COVID (both fully vaccinated, since I know you're wondering). I have had many friends and family members fall seriously ill to COVID. I have many friends and acquaintances who have also lost loved ones. I've also had friends and family members hospitalized with life-threatening complications from receiving the vaccine. If you are truly of the belief that anyone who disagrees with your views must be devoid of empathy, compassion, or humanity, then please listen carefully to my plea. Such a belief is more dangerous than any virus. This belief does not come from God; it has not been taught by any prophet. It has started many riots and many wars. We saw this believe on display in the riots that erupted throughout the U.S. last summer. We saw it on display at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. We are seeing it on display now. Do not take part. Ponder and pray to know how Heavenly Father would have you respond to those who disagree with you.

Anonymous said...

"undergraduate degree is in a healthcare-related field"

Is that supposed to give you credibility or authority to pontificate ad infinitum? Derek, you're tedious.

Derek said...

Anonymous,

My transparency about my educational background is in no way intended to add credibility to any of my arguments. In fact, I don't believe I've made any assertions or claims that pertain to healthcare at all, so I'm not sure what relevance a stronger background in healthcare would even have. So I'm afraid your personal attacks once again miss the mark. I have been very clear from the start about my purpose here and what qualifies me to speak on this topic.

My Purpose

The author here has attempted to promote a dialog about vaccines that is grounded on mutual respect and on a balanced view of the facts. I support this effort wholeheartedly. I see the emotional toll that results from the personal attacks so often waged against vaccine skeptics, and my heart weeps. The hatred and intolerance must stop. The core argument that I have brought to this discussion is that not all objections to vaccines are necessarily based on the perceived risks and benefits thereof and that a better understanding of this cultural movement must consider other common reasons for abstinence as well.

My Qualifications

I have been actively associated with anti-vax groups and organizations for the past 8 years. I have interacted with hundreds, if not thousands, of vaccine skeptics in this time period, but most especially in recent months. While I cannot speak for all of those who identify with this movement, I feel that my first-hand experience qualifies me to share certain observations about the movement which others might miss.

Anonymous said...

The virus will continue to mutate and run through the population. There is nothing we can do to stop it. Vaccines and masks won't stop it running through the population, as we have seen. The most important thing anyone can do is become metabolically healthy. That means not to follow a typical bad diet, but instead lower inflammation by means of diet, and get rid of or lessen auto-immune problems by diet. The information is out there to do this. Pres. Nelson should stress eliminating metabolic dysfunction, and if that is impossible, then isolation measures must be followed.

Anonymous said...

"I have been actively associated with anti-vax groups and organizations for the past 8 years. I have interacted with hundreds, if not thousands, of vaccine skeptics in this time period, but most especially in recent months. While I cannot speak for all of those who identify with this movement, I feel that my first-hand experience qualifies me to share certain observations about the movement which others might miss."

So, in addition to being an undergraduate in some nebulous field that had something to do with some kind of health care you're also a crackpot. ...of 8 years duration.

I suppose that explains the textual diarrhea.

Patriot said...

I’ve followed Jeff Lindsay from time to time for at least 15 years probably closer to 20. I am a nurse anesthetist in minneapolis. I’ve taken care of a number of covid patients during these last 18 months or so. I’m not a stupid person. Sometimes in your writing you seemed to suggest people who don’t want the vaccine are just that. Then you backtrack to make sure not to offend. Like I said, I’ve read many many posts and articles from Jeff in the past. This one, without doubt is the most out of touch article I’ve ever read. I feel like we live on two planets and you have never heard a real argument against the vaccine. You quote a few articles from sources you know are from sources least trusted amongst people who don’t want the vaccine and use them as a bludgeon against them. This nonsense falls on deaf ears. It doesn’t help. You want to have a dialogue then act as if you have at least tried to understand our position. Completely out of touch. Quite surprising coming from you. I’ve liked you for a long time. This is an extremely poor effort to understand.

Anonymous said...

People who don't want the vaccine aren't stupid: they're just ill-informed, selfish, blinded, narcissistic, unpatriotic, ignorant, cruel, don't believe in following a prophet, and non-empathetic. But NOT stupid.

Patriot said...

This really helps. Thanks, now I’ll go out and get vaccinated. Thank God for members like you.

Patriot said...

I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument to get the covid vaccine. Far too much disinformation out there. The lies, the manipulation of facts, the censoring, blocking, ridicule, it has no end. But compelling, nothing of the sort. Many now are beginning to advocate segregating the unvaxxed into camps. Denying access to normal life. They fail to see they are now at step 7 on the 10 steps to genocide. Will they also volunteer to turn on the ovens? I know many will be happy to.

There is one argument to get vaccinated: “If you don’t get it you’re fired. Similar to “if you don’t get it we blow your head off.”

But it isn’t a thoughtful argument. It’s an argument a mean person would use. A bully. Someone who hates people. A cretin. People who think like this and feel the need to do this don’t sway people to their side. In fact they make people run away. It makes people fight

Anonymous said...

I don't get it, Patriot. You claim to be an educated professional woman but can't tell the difference between take a reasonable precaution and we'll blow your head off? You have trouble understanding that you are voluntarily exposing your employer and medically vulnerable patients to exposure to the virus and legal ramifications?

I don't think you're making the case that you think you are. I, for one, doubt your ability to make judgments both moral and medical.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Patriot, I'm sorry if you think I am against those who choose not to vaccinate or think they are stupid. A major motivation for my article was to help people understand that those who are hesitant are not stupid and typically have intelligent reasons for their concerns that we should respect.

I had plenty of concerns myself and needed to get some questions answered before making the choice I did. Talking to another Ph.D. who worked with virology in detail for his Ph.D. was helpful to me in making that decision. But there remain legitimate concerns people may have. Let's respect that, even if we disagree. And as I said, I can't say for sure that I won't regret my decision later as more data comes out. That's one of the inherent risks of taking an experimental drug that bypassed some of the normal testing protocols.

An important point of my article is that I stand for the right of people to choose for themselves, and to buttress what should be a self-evident principle, I point out some of the logical reasons that intelligent people, including many with Ph.D.s, have for not trusting the advice they are being given by the CDC and others. Again, the point is to argue that you and others who question are not stupid and should be treated with respect, not as public enemies.

Do any of you hostile voices walk up to smokers or people drinking alcohol and berate them with the anger I see toward CPDs? Their behaviors are more likely to impact your health and our health care system than people not wearing masks or the unvaccinated. Many behaviors contribute to poor health, to unsafe roads, to weakened immune systems that can spread many diseases, or to byproducts like second-hand smoke that can kill. Must we have mobs and government nannies step in and force them all to change and shame them until they do? The totalitarian wannabes among us who would love to boss others around may think that's a great idea, but it's antithetical to a free society. Teach people correct principles, but let them make their own decisions.

There's risk in everything. Your decision to drive to the store instead of walking puts the lives of children and other pedestrians at risk. Must we shut down all unnecessary driving and require the permission of local tyrants because it's the only way to save lives from driving accidents? Such tyranny leads to abuses and social harms far worse than the problem allegedly being solved.

Jeff Lindsay said...

I also think we should really pay attention to the "wise and thoughtful" wording in the First Presidency Statement. I believe it's deliberate and carefully worded and gives a little wiggle room for those who have concluded that taking an experimental vaccine is not wise for them. Clearly it must not be taken as a blanket endorsement of all government decrees in the past, such as, for example, the ones that once disenfranchised the Church and jailed some of its leaders. I think those words were carefully chosen to help us be good citizens and encourage us to pursue what is "wise and thoughtful," which ultimately requires making our own informed choice. Derek makes some valid points here. Derek, thank you for sharing those perspectives, and for being polite to voices who are angry with those who see things differently, being trained it seems to view dissent as evidence of being a bad person that needs to be hated, shamed, and cancelled.

Shortly before I made the decision to get vaccinated, a missionary in a local testimony meeting told the congregation how he had just been vaccinated, and how it was a horrific experience due to the adverse reactions. He said the pain was so bad for a day or two that he thought he was going to die. Not exactly what we are used to hearing in testimony meetings. Something went wrong for them. A bad batch? I don't know. Did he seek added care to see if there was some kind of damage, and did he report the results to the VAERS database? I don't think so. It was a reminder that it's not a trivial think to accept a vaccine. The harms Derek has seen cannot be ruled out as impossible. Asking someone to take an experimental vaccine can have permanent consequences -- hopefully good ones, but there are exceptions to that. It's not like the essentially zero-risk act of washing hands. Washing hands is good for everyone, especially for the person who washes. For the vaccine, people may choose to wait or not to do it at all, and we have no right to shame them or to require them to do otherwise, in my opinion, even if we disagree.

Anonymous said...

"Patriot" you are being willfully ignorant and decidedly un-patriotic. Do it for your fellow Americans as soon as possible. Don't be yet another ironic punchline. And for the love of all that's good, stop watching Fox News.

Anonymous said...

"Shortly before I made the decision to get vaccinated, a missionary in a local testimony meeting told the congregation how he had just been vaccinated, and how it was a horrific experience due to the adverse reactions. He said the pain was so bad for a day or two that he thought he was going to die."

My daughter is an RN working in a Covid unit of a large hospital. She had one of the early round of vaccinations. She also experienced side effects. She was non-functional for a day and unwell for another one with her first shot. She had notable aches and pains with her second one. However, working in a Covid ICU unit she has had nearly a year since her immunization of treating the infected and performing the most perilous procedures to and for them without contracting the disease. Prior to the vaccination she spent nearly another year in constant anxiety not only for her own safety and the safety of the team she worked with but concerning bringing the infection home to her husband and only child. If you asked her she'd tell you without hesitation -- having seen the slow collapse of the pulmonary and vascular systems and the associated pain -- that it was an advantageous bargain. If you ask me I'd tell you how the anxiety of our entire family went down at the prospect of her maintaining her health in the exhaustion and demoralizing conditions of constant death from the virus.

Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that younger people have more heightened reactions. They also are more active and in contact with more people both increasing their opportunity to get infected and to spread the virus. What's more thanks to the Delta strain they are getting more serious infections at a greater rate and, increasingly, are the ones hospitalized with Covid. However rough the side effects may be, they pale in comparison with a substantial infection, the prospects of spending whatever part of the rest of their lives as long haulers or the personal responsibility of spreading the infection to their loved ones and friends.

The anecdotal story of a single missionary is immaterial and, in the context of 640,000 American deaths so far and 4.4 million worldwide somewhat insulting. It's also worth keeping in mind that many of those missionaries are going out into a world with a substantially lower percentage of people protected by vaccinations.

Jeff Lindsay said...

In describing the factors that influence people logically or emotionally, the rather inappropriate sharing of a missionaries extreme reaction to the vaccine is not immaterial. I felt it was an outlier, as it clearly was, and went ahead with my vaccination. But the potential for young people to have side effects is not immaterial. The stories of individuals are not immaterial. Cumulatively, they are very important.

It is entirely reasonable for people to wonder whether their children should be vaccinated given that the risk of death from COVID for them is so vanishingly small, and given the possibility that there might be adverse effects. Some people have been punished on social media for sharing stories or reports of adverse effects, contrary to the scientific principle of inquiry, debate, and open discussion of data, but now even the mainstream media is reporting investigation into one possible risk for young men, myocarditis. See "US officials weigh possibility that Moderna vaccine is linked to higher risk of uncommon side effect than previously thought." But many were punished who previously warned of exactly the same things. Such data should be freely discussed to allow people to be informed and make their own decisions. Censoring discussion is simply wrong and a step toward tyranny, in my opinion. Science doesn't advance when information is heavily censored and different voices are silences. As far as I know, the data still support the notion that the vaccine is a plus overall -- but don't force people to take it and let people decide for themselves and their children.

Anonymous said...

https://www.byu.edu/coronavirus/

Anonymous said...

You think the plain facts of people being fed up with those who insist on being free to spread the virus are "hostile", Jeff?

I wonder how you feel about people's reactions to running traffic lights, cutting in lines, disrupting flights, and pocketing the proceeds of cash transactions so as not to pay their equal share of the tax burden. Are people who object to such things "hostile" too?

Patriot said...

Doubt away, destroy our rights. Your ability to discern is extremely poor. You don’t even know what gender your speaking with. You have bought the idea that this virus is so horrible. You are clearly listening to the fake news all around you. It’s like you not only dismissed me which is expected but you also dismissed some of the points Lindsay made in his article. Your ignorance and condescending attitude are appalling. Name calling and demeaning never was a great way to make a point. Try again.

Patriot said...

Thanks Jeff, at least you come across as sincere. But given the source material and the “facts” you cite its pretty clear where you believe truth lies. So many problems with this. It would be great to have an actual discussion. But it seems many of your commenters would rather slither in the mud, very distracting.
You mention secret combinations warned about in the BOM. We also have many warnings from past prophets to expect such combinations/conspiracies to exist and grow stronger in the last days. Where they would become a vast global conspiracy to waist in all lands and among all nations. What if such evil infiltrated the same organizations, power structures, influencers etc today? What if the information we have grown to trust has been poisoned? In fact if such a situation existed would it not be awful? As we discover more and more poisonous connection would we not need to wake up to our awful situation? But how would we know? Who would we trust? Where would we turn? What info is correct? Is it possible such a conspiracy might involve corporations, entertainment, Big Pharma, the media, even health care and politics? (Were we not warned that the constitution would not be saved in Washington?)

You have come to your conclusions. We all will do the same. I believe what is happening is far more sinister. “Anonymous” likes to say I’m ignorant, dangerous and in American. It’s possible, it’s also possible that it’s truthful. Sometimes truth hurts. Sometimes truth exposes false ideas and corruption. Time will tell, in the end truth will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Patriot 3:16, if you'd like a primer on how to distinguish between fake news and reliable media, just let me know.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

Patriot, listen to the official publishing arm of your church and just do it, for heaven's sake: https://www.deseret.com/utah/2021/8/21/22629868/doctor-who-treated-covid-patients-signed-dozens-death-certificates-has-message-vaccination

cadams said...

Why haven't we considered the possibility that the Brethren are acting as the prophet Abraham once did, when he lied to Pharaoh, saying that Sarah was not his wife, so as to protect his own life and his family. Perhaps the Brethren are speaking as they do, so as to protect the Saints from tyrannical government. Did not also Captain Moroni determine, during the Nephite wars, that it was justified in using "stratagems," or to lie to the enemy in a war? (Alma 43:30).

Anonymous said...

Cadams 5:57, please tell us you're joking.

-- OK

Rob said...

I have family members on both sides of issue, some have gotten vaccinated and some have not. The reasons on both sides are reasonable as to their decisions. The decision to be vaccinated or not is a private matter between the individual and the Lord. I haven't received the vaccination because as I pray about it I receive the answer at this time not to get the vaccination. That's not irresponsible at all or misinformed or politically motivated, etc like the world wants to paint on the unvaccinated.

One thing that must be understood in all this debate is that very early on in the pandemic the very health professionals we are supposed to trust lied to the public about something as basic as masks. They even admitted to the lies for the concern over the health workers. Right there was a huge turning point in how a lot of people viewed the validity of health officials.

Another issue is that the news and social media has been waging a political censoring war for some time with all sides firmly entrenched and getting militant over sensoring. "News" anymore isn't really news, it's politically motivated conjecture for the most part surrounded by half truths and lies and it's coming from all sides.

This is really turning into a war of censorship, truth and lies, political persuasion and corruption.

It's obvious we have some disease in our midst but I'm afraid the real destroyer here isn't covid, it's the politicians and media.

Rob said...

Also, you aren't helping the situation by lumping or insinuating that all the unvaccinated are CPD's.

The First Presidency statement is basically what can be defined as sound scientific suggestions based on purely scientific sided view. Is it revelation from God? No. And I think every intelligent member can make that distinction. Not once does the letter reference that the counsel came from praying, fasting, or from God. Quite the opposite really- that it came from man, solely from man, government, health professional, etc. And we all know that those sources sway towards a bias and are not necessarily neutral and truthful.

Im not vaccinated but I do wear a mask when I can't social distance or feel it is not safe. I also actually be live in vaccinations as do most Americans. This is proved because almost the entire population in this country have received vaccinations of one kind or other over the years.

The letter isn't a "policy" but mere "advice". And that advice isn't dictated from God. People need to understand that fact.

Anonymous said...

"The decision to be vaccinated or not is a private matter between the individual and those he/she may infect."

Fixed that for you.

The variants are getting serious. ...as though 655,000 deaths in the US and 4.5million worldwide weren't already serious.
• Teachers are infecting their classrooms.
• An 88yo Univ of Georgia professor had to resign to protect himself because a student refused to wear a mask.
• Hospital ICUs are maxed out in several states.
• There are now pediatric Covid units.
• FL is employing portable morgues.
• Anti-mask and -vaccine proponents' deaths from Covid are public spectacle now.
• Others are burdening already overburdened hospitals with poisoning from overdosing an anti-parasite med that's basically a desperation measure against a virus.

And people who offered their bodies as petri dishes have to face their share of the responsibility for all of it.

Rob said...

Everyone must do what they feel is most prudent and safe for themselves and those around them. The Misinformed are those who believe in having a blanket policy or ideology in place where only the vaccinated are those who are safe.

There is so much we do not know about the virus, its variants, and vaccinations at this point. Take Israel for example- they are arguably the most or one of the most vaccinated countries on earth right now. And yet, they also have the highest infection and reinfection levels in their country since the pandemic began. Studies conducted in Israel are now showing that natural immunity from catching covid and overcoming it provides stronger resistance than those who are fully vaccinated. Studies also show that the vaccinated are just as much spreaders of the disease as the unvaccinated.

Anonymous said...

Can it, Rob. You're just parroting nonsense you heard from non-experts.
Here, enjoy this subreddit where anti-vaxxers are getting their comeuppance in real time. It sucks. These people don't have to die. https://www.reddit.com/r/hermancainaward

Rob said...

Non-experts eh?
“It’s a textbook example of how natural immunity is really better than vaccination,” says Charlotte ThÃ¥lin, a physician and immunology researcher at Danderyd Hospital and the Karolinska Institute who studies the immune responses to SARS-CoV-2. "
https://www.science.org/content/article/having-sars-cov-2-once-confers-much-greater-immunity-vaccine-vaccination-remains-vital

Rob said...

I found this video informative.
https://youtu.be/6v5VrpgXPm4
I don't believe we have approached the pandemic in a very effective manner.

Anonymous said...

Rob shove that video up your ass. Thanks for cherry picking evidence. You do realize actual human lives are on the line here, right?

Anonymous said...

Um, already survived Covid-19? We're now immune to all the proteins in SARS-CoV-2, not just the spike protein. No medical upside in getting vaccinated, only risk. But no exceptions for us? Lose our jobs because we're immune? Huh? In what clown world does that make sense?

Vaccinating the population with an imperfect vaccine that targets only the spike protein breeds variants in the vaccinated - survival of the fittest (virus), Biology 101?

Combining an imperfect vaccine (prophylactic) with effective treatment is the only way to eliminate the virus. Yet the same people telling us to get vaccinated assert that viable treatments used in other parts of the world, with great benefit, are "conspiracy theory". Why should that be the case? If this really is a pandemic - and it is, sort of, though not a horrific one - we should be willing to search heaven and earth and the depths of the oceans for viable treatments. But numerous published studies are being dismissed out-of-hand and mocked. Why is that? Clown world on steroids is what this is.

Warner Woodworth said...

Friends, thanks to Anonymous and other smart folks who've tried to set the record straight about distortions in the original post by Jeff. To the other apologists trying to weasel out of being vaccinated with weak attempts at sophistry, we understand. No one is saying every person should be vaccinated, no matter what. But many LDS cowards are using the few with genuine health concerns to cover for their own sins, ignorance, or deceit. Then there's Patriot" who won't self-identify, but says has "yet to hear a compelling argument to get the covid vaccine." Such deceit shows he/she's trapped by Faux media or by such "sources" as Glenn Beck and OAN. Then there's Rob and others who assume they can pray and get a “revelation” that supersedes the smartest First Presidency in history, who, like all real prophets, care about their people. Or CAdams who's bought into the Mormon QAnon deception that the First Presidency is playing games about us needing to become vaxxed, much like the occasional deceptions of ancient cases when beheadings of righteous leaders lurked everywhere. And poor Rob is caught in the right-wing Mormon trap of "secret combinations," unaware that these are those of the Trump cult since the GOP no longer exists. Shockingly, he justifies his own rejections of prophetic teachings as mere "advice."
It's amazing that as our church structures were all closed to protect lives, there was so much rancor, like the B of M and D&C days when "believers" switched from God to worship Trump & his lying staffers, as well as his cult followers across the nation: Rand, DeSantis, Abbott, Greene, Boebert, and other QAnon "believers" acting like Korihor. In spite of inspired decisions in 2020, we began seeing LDS members die by the thousands, including stake, temple and mission presidents. When my Home Boys in the Utah Area Prescy issued meeting shutdowns, there was such an uproar I wrote them an apology for all the deniers and haters in my church. Today we still struggled against the catastrophe. Because of a stiff-necked people, the Brethren have been told by God once again, in August 2021, to issue a plea for righteousness. Privately they bemoan adults and youth in denial. They worry about the screamers in SLC recently pressuring the school board to not mandate masks. Apparently, such parents regret having kids and prefer a free life to travel and party constantly. Fully childless. An email from an LDS colleague in Germany asked me why church members in "supposedly Zion" don't value their own kids' safety. You don't want to read my response about how idiocy grew so fast in Utah, but I pointed to the culture's many 2021 evils. We're engulfed by Pharisees and Sadducees!
These poor, harassed leaders face such ignorance and resistance from LDS folks. Obviously, some church members stormed the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. Others joined lawsuits to overthrow our duly-elected president. Equally bad, many voted for the "Chosen One," Trump, supporting his 5 decades of sexual assaults on women, his more than 36,000 independently documented lies from our once-sacred White House, and his breaking up families and caging kids. The afflictions we suffer because of the terrible "Trump Virus," the term he deflects as the "China virus" has curtailed most of freedoms. Because of such ignorance, we're stuck at home. May the Second Coming be soon to save believing church members from the deceivers across the world.