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What were they thinking?
A tragic story joins a list that has grown far too long since early 2020: Two co-workers in a Florida government office have died of Covid-19, and three others in the same office have been hospitalized with serious cases of the same disease. Local news reporting on the story includes these crucial facts: "One staffer in the department who worked closely with the other five and didn't contract the coronavirus was vaccinated. All five who contracted the virus were known not to be vaccinated".
■ This raises a most important question: What were they thinking? It's important that this question be asked without judging the victims; basic decency requires at least some respect for the dead and goodwill towards the others who are seriously ill.
■ But the question is objectively important. Vaccines are abundantly available (Florida's map of vaccination sites shows them seemingly everywhere), and the United States as a whole has millions of surplus doses available. By now, the side effects of vaccination are well-known and trivial by comparison with the known risks of contracting the deadly disease the vaccines prevent.
■ This is far from the first case in which the vaccines have been demonstrably protective. In particular, the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been statistically outstanding. The protection afforded by the vaccines is virtually complete. And yet Florida's statewide vaccination rate (for the eligible 12+ population) remains below 60%.
■ It's not a matter of scarcity or cost, so it's either a matter of choice or of motivation. But with the entire country only 46% vaccinated (for the total population), and some individual states in the 20s, we really need to figure out the psychological and sociological reasons why people are still holding back.
■ Without heartless judgment, and indeed with sympathetic due concern for the welfare of our fellow human beings, it's imperative that we figure out the root causes of the hesitancy of so many people to step out of the line of fire. Covid-19 isn't the only bad thing for which easy preventatives are available, and it won't be the last pandemic, either. Medical science has done some astonishing heavy lifting so far. It's time for social science to flex its muscles, too.