Analysis: Fauci's Messaging on Vaccines Is Counter-Productive and Demoralizing

Posted: Feb 24, 2021 10:35 AM
Analysis: Fauci's Messaging on Vaccines Is Counter-Productive and Demoralizing

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

If you listen to some skeptics of the COVID-19 vaccines, you'll hear various doubts about effectiveness and safety, which have not been validated by the data.  To the contrary, the vaccines are working miraculously well and have been proven safe among many millions of recipients across the world.  Another argument that certain fence-sitters may advance is that the government isn't eager to give up control over people's lives anyway, so why bother getting a set of injections against a virus that probably won't kill you -- especially if the Powers That Be won't allow your life to return to normal as a reward.  I'm concerned that this latter concern is being vindicated by rhetoric from top officials and amplified in the media.  Reaching herd immunity is a crucial goal that will allow American life to move past the pandemic.  Incessantly telling people that getting inoculated is not an effective ticket back to freedom and normalcy is a mistake.  A significant number of people might well internalize that message and reach the somewhat understandable conclusion that if the vaccines 'aren't good enough,' why even bother?  This is dangerous and counter-productive.  

I have never been one of the swooning fans, or hardcore critics, of Dr. Anthony Fauci.  In fact, I've often been put off by people in each of those camps.  But I'll admit that his politically-tinged equivocating in the school re-opening debate, his manipulative goalpost shifting, and messaging like this has been wearing on me:

Reason's Robby Soave is feeling similarly frustrated:

Fauci has admitted that he has previously avoided telling people the plain truth about how long it would take to reach herd immunity because he thought the public wasn't ready to hear it; thus it's not always totally clear whether the doctor's pronouncements reflect genuine uncertainty, public messaging considerations, or a mixture of both...The government should urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible, because vaccinated people are overwhelmingly safe from the disease—and are also much less likely to spread it to others. The message should be that vaccination is both a protective shield and a ticket back to speedy normalcy. People who are vaccinated can start doing normal things with other vaccinated people: They can go to weddings, restaurants, and grandparent hug-a-thons. Keep that mask handy for 2022 is a really demoralizing and unnecessary framing...

That's the way Israel has been framing their vaccination campaign, and they lead the world in shots administered, by a mile.  They are explicitly incentivizing getting the jab by correctly treating it as the inside track back to an uninhibited life (plus offering free food and booze, which probably helps, too).  We now know that the vaccines overwhelmingly protect immunized people -- not only against COVID symptoms, serious cases and death, but also from infection.  This means that vaccinated people pose an extremely low risk of passing the disease to anyone else.  In other words, they're safe.  People with whom they come into contact are also safe from them.  Let them live life.  Stop prattling on about how common activities still may not be safe even for vaccinated people for an indefinite period of time, and how we may need still to be masking up a year from now.  Again, this stuff is needlessly demoralizing and counter-productive:

As for exasperated conservatives crying, "fire Fauci," Allahpundit argues 'be careful what you wish for.'  But there are absolutely fair criticisms to be leveled, several of which are laid out bluntly by David Harsanyi in a piece I strongly you encourage to read and consider.  An excerpt:

I’m sorry the Constitution is inhibiting Fauci’s work, but he is a public-health official. His job is to relay information to the public, not to threaten doom, or coax or trick us into doing things. Yet even now, despite the immensely promising results of the vaccination program (the United States, incidentally, easily outperforms the European Union’s “unified approach”), Fauci is underplaying the effectiveness of the vaccine for the same reasons, one suspects, that he misled us about herd immunity. Even when most American are immunized, Fauci says, we won’t be back to “normal” until new infections drop “to a baseline that’s so low, it is virtually no threat.” This is a disqualifying statement — an insane standard that no free society would ever indulge. For Fauci, herd immunity is effectively 99 percent.

I'll leave you with two items.  First, my straightforward layperson's advice on what the official 'recommendation' ought to be for Americans who are fully inoculated against COVID, followed by an ugly glimpse at how awful things are in the EU on the vaccine front:  

Is Biden's 'Success' Our Mess?
Victor Davis Hanson

I know a lot of Americans on the Left tend to fetishize Europe, but the EU's sclerotic bureaucracy and other factors are producing dreadful outcomes on getting life-saving doses into the arms of EU citizens.  The Europeans certainly fancy themselves far more enlightened and "pro-science" than we are, and many Americans would agree.  And yet, the good ole USA's rate of doses administered per 100 residents is more than triple the EU's rate, as of this week.  Also, looking at the data above, I wonder if any British opponents of Brexit might be coming around to the view that they might have gotten that one wrong.