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Tag: vaccine resistance

Overwhelming Success For Vaccine Mandates Despite Handful Of Resignations, Firings

By Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jennifer Bridges loved her job as a nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital, where she worked for eight years, but she chose to get fired rather than inoculated against COVID-19, believing that the vaccine was more of a threat than the deadly virus.

Bridges was among about 150 employees who were fired or resigned rather than comply with the requirement at Methodist, which was the country's first large health system to mandate vaccinations. About 25,000 other employees at the hospital system complied.

"I have never felt so strong about anything," said Bridges, 39, who lives in Houston. She was terminated from her $70,000 per year post on June 21, the deadline for employees to get a jab. "I did not feel there was proper research in this shot. It had been developed very quickly."

Houston Methodist is one of a growing number of private employers that have made vaccinations a requirement of the job. New York and California are among the states that have required vaccinations for healthcare workers.

Mandates have proven to be effective in boosting vaccination rates in healthcare. In New York, for example, Governor Kathy Hochul on Thursday said 92 percent of the state's more than 625,000 healthcare workers were inoculated, up from 73 percent on August 16 when former Governor Andrew Cuomo laid down a September 27 deadline for vaccinations.

Then-Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said the mandate would "help close the vaccination gap" and reduce the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

Even so, there are pockets of resistance in the healthcare field. Those interviewed by Reuters said they had been immunized for other diseases, but said a lack of long-term data on the three COVID vaccines available in the United States was reason enough for them to step into an uncertain future after years of job security.

Speaking in support of the vaccines available in the United States, medical experts have said they had received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in less than a year, instead of the usual several years, due to factors including ample funding and test subjects, piggybacking off earlier research, and international collaboration.

'Slap In My Face'

Many of the workers who walked away had enough financial wherewithal to allow them to stick to their convictions.

For Bridges, the high demand for nurses meant she could refuse the shot without sacrificing financial security. On the same day she was fired by Methodist, she started training for her next job at a private nursing company that has no vaccine mandate.

Nurse Katie Yarber also found a job after leaving Houston Methodist but only after going 12 weeks without a paycheck and depleting "a big chunk" of her savings. Still, she said she does not regret her decision to depart after 14 years of service.

Yarber, 35, said she would not get the vaccine because of her religious convictions, a stance that the hospital rejected. She is also wary of possible long-term side effects.

"I kind of felt like it was a slap in my face," said Yarber, who began working at the hospital as a medical records clerk before earning a nursing degree. "I went to work, I did my job, I did it with a smile. I was a really good employee."

Yarber, who said she has already had COVID, is now a work-from-home nurse case manager. She had a brief stint at Texas Children's Hospital but that ended when it too required vaccinations.

Carolyn Euart is one of about 175 workers dismissed last Monday after refusing vaccinations at Novant Health, a North Carolina hospital network. She is now considering a new career.

With 24 years as a patient services coordinator, Euart, 56, had planned to retire from Novant, but is now exploring opening a dessert restaurant and sweet shop.

After battling cancer since 2008, she felt the risk of a vaccine was greater than COVID, which four of her family members have had.

"I needed the job, but I didn't think that my job was worth my life," she said.

A Novant spokeswoman said on Tuesday that 99 percent of its more than 35,000 employees have been vaccinated against coronavirus.

Nationally, more than 77 percent of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country's COVID death toll has surpassed 700,000, according to a Reuters tally.

In upstate New York, Andrew Kurtyko said he is ready to be fired from his $90,000 nursing job at Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston for refusing the shot. He knows he could earn more by working as a "travel nurse," taking temporary jobs around the country.

"Certainly with my years of experience, I'm pretty marketable," said Kurtyko, 47, a divorced father of a college student who has a mortgage to pay.

Like some other medical workers, Kurtyko questions the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. He is also seeking a religious exemption from the Catholic Hospital. If he is denied, he expects to lose his job on October12.

Bob Nevens, 47, Houston Methodist's top risk manager for 10 years, also prefers to take his chances with COVID over a vaccine. As a consequence, he became one of the country's first workplace mandate casualties in April.

Besides a lack of long-term data, Nevens said he refused Methodist's mandate because it did not acknowledge "natural immunity" for those who had already contracted COVID and because vaccine manufacturers are shielded from liability.

He said he was not worried about money.

"Financially, I'm fine," he said. "Mentally, it's exhausting, because I didn't want to make that decision. I had planned on retiring from Houston Methodist."

(Reporting by Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Daniel Wallis)

The Murdochs Love Tucker Carlson’s Vile Conspiracy Theories

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Tucker Carlson's Fox News show is a toxic combination of Infowars-style conspiracy theories and Stormfront-esque xenophobia because that's what network founder Rupert Murdoch, parent company CEO Lachlan Murdoch, and network CEO Suzanne Scott want in their 8 p.m. hour. Fox executives keep making excuses for Carlson's malignant commentary, he correctly interprets their defenses as a green light to be ever more extreme, and all the other stakeholders in the network are willing to go along with it.

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Attacking Anti-V​​accine Obstruction, Biden Mandates Widespread COVID Shots

By Jeff Mason, Ahmed Aboulenein and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden took aim on Thursday at vaccine resistance in America, announcing policies requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and pushing large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly.

The new measures, which Biden laid out in remarks from the White House, would apply to about two-thirds of all U.S. employees, those who work for businesses with more than 100 workers.

"We've been patient," Biden told the tens of millions of Americans who have declined to get coronavirus shots. "But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us."

Taken together, the policies and speech represented Biden's most aggressive steps yet to prod Americans resistant to getting shots as the fast-spreading Delta variant sparks a new wave of sickness and death.

The surge has posed increased risk not just to the country but to a president who ran on promises to get control of the pandemic. Biden's approval ratings have sagged since he said in July the United States was "closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus."

Biden's latest moves are expected to be the subject of political and legal challenges.

Despite a full-throttled campaign by the Biden administration urging Americans to get the free and widely available vaccines, just over 62 percent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday, Biden warned that "we're in a tough stretch and it could last for a while."

Infectious disease and health policy experts said the mandates are unlikely to significantly change infection rates quickly.

Still, they would help against potential future waves of the virus, reducing deaths and hospitalizations and alleviating the stress on the healthcare system, said Georgetown University's Dr. Jesse Goodman, a former chief scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do," he said. "Ideally everyone would have been vaccinated already."

'Fear, Control, And Mandates'

In a televised speech running a bit under half an hour, the Democratic president accused "a distinct minority of elected officials" who have resisted mask and vaccine mandates on freedom-of-choice and economic grounds as "making people sick."

The White House COVID-19 recovery plan was based on the vast majority of eligible Americans being vaccinated this year. But the public health issue has become politicized, with a vocal minority refusing the shots and mask mandates.

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in July blocking mask mandates in schools.

Administration medical officials have said over 97 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated, and those people account for an even higher share of deaths.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives committee that oversees health policy, said Biden "is using fear, control, and mandates."

The Republican National Committee said it intends to sue the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate.

Under Biden's plan, the administration will also require vaccinations for more than 17 million healthcare workers at hospitals and other institutions that participate in Medicare and Medicaid social programs for poor, disabled and older Americans.

Biden previously required that federal employees be vaccinated or get tested. Federal workers now have 75 days to get vaccinated, or face termination unless they fall into limited exemption categories.

Federal workers unions suggested on Thursday they would accept the vaccine mandate.

Substantial Fines

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to take enforcement actions against private companies that do not comply with the vaccine mandate, with substantial fines of nearly $14,000 per violation.

The administration is also calling on entertainment venues to require tests or shots and for states to adopt mandates for school employees. It is also multiplying the fines charged to people who fail to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses.

It plans as well to ramp up testing capacity for the virus.

Biden will use authority under the Defense Production Act to spur industry to accelerate production of the tests, and big retailers including Walmart Inc , Inc <AMZN.O> and Kroger Co are expected to sell the tests at cost for the next three months to make them more affordable.

Critics have said the Biden administration has not done enough on testing during its seven months in office. Still, the new demand for tests could tax already strained suppliers.

Administration officials believe the full recovery of the U.S economy depends on blunting the spread of the virus, the key focus of the president since entering office in January.

The disease has killed more than 654,000 people in the United States, and deaths and hospitalizations have been rising sharply as the easily transmissible Delta variant of the virus spreads.

The spread of the Delta variant has raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors, upending company return-to-office plans and tamping down hiring.

The White House also plans to offer booster shots providing additional protection to those who are fully vaccinated. But supplies are limited and the World Health Organization has begged rich countries to pause booster programs until more people worldwide are inoculated.

But with Delta causing more symptomatic breakthrough infections among fully inoculated individuals, most vaccinated Americans want a booster, a recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found. Boosters could begin the week of September 20.

"Get vaccinated," Biden urged in closing his speech.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Ahmed Aboulenein and Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Steve Holland, David Shepardson and Susan Heavey; Writing by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Florida Doctors Walkout To Protest Vaccine Resistance

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Since the novel coronavirus pandemic first hit the United States, people on all sides of the political aisle have praised physicians—as well as others in health care, like nurses and janitorial and cooking staffs—for their tireless work and dedication in the face of increased workload and, frankly, increased trauma. As some are holding out on getting vaccinated, however, and cases are skyrocketing again in particular pockets of the country—hi, Gulf Coast—some medical professionals are burned out and fed up. And as we saw on Monday morning, a group of physicians in south Florida staged a walkout in an appeal to the public to get their point across.

As reported by The New York Times, Florida leads the nation when it comes to daily average cases, as well as hospitalizations. And the doctors, ranging from emergency room physicians to plastic surgeons to neurologists, treating patients in Palm Beach County, Florida, are desperate to get one message across: Vaccines are safe, and if you trust physicians to treat you when you're hospitalized, trust them enough to get yourself and your community vaccinated.

As covered by my colleague Joan McCarter at Daily Kos, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Specifically, this vaccine, branded Comirnaty, has been fully approved for people 16 and over. For youth between 12- and 16-years-old, it's authorized for emergency use. In theory, this should reassure vaccine holdouts who argued the vaccine hadn't been vetted enough for them to feel comfortable taking the leap. That plus the reality that medical professionals are basically begging for people to finally get the shot.

"We exhausted our patience and resources are running low," Dr. Rupesh Dharia, an internist, said on Monday, as he and more than 75 peers across medical specialties protested early Monday morning. "We need your help."

Worse, this isn't even the first time physicians in this area have appealed to the public to please do their part and get vaccinated. For example, earlier this month, gynecologists and obstetricians in Florida made a public plea to pregnant people to get vaccinated. Dr. Pam Carbiener, who works at Halifax OBGYN in Daytona Beach, Florida, told local outlet WESH that the COVID-19 surge at her local hospital included pregnant patients. She urged folks to get vaccinated.

"I had to do an emergency Caesarean section early so that we could get her on a ventilator because her [illness] was so severe," Carbiener told the outlet in early August, then stressing it's been shown that when pregnant people are vaccinated, it can also help their baby.

"Antibodies that they create, those can pass both through the placenta to the baby and later on through the breast milk to the nursing baby," she added.

One would think that nothing would bring people and a sense of camaraderie together like facing a literal global pandemic, but plenty of people are apparently willing to put themselves and vulnerable community members—like pregnant people and babies—in danger. Between people going to theme parks and beaches, on vacations, and generally itching to return to normal life—or, perhaps, having never stopped living "normal" lives—we've seen countless reports of Florida being a hotbed for the virus, no thanks, of course to the state's Republican governor.

In speaking to The Palm Beach Post, neurologist Robin Kass said the pandemic is the "worst it's ever been right now," and added that "nobody realizes that." In Florida specifically, illnesses and deaths related to COVID-19 are growing faster than previously in the pandemic. For example, the state's case count exceeded three million on Friday, with more than 1,400 deaths and 150,000 new cases last week alone.

And how do protesting physicians, many of whom work at Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens medical centers, feel about vaccine skepticism and hysteria? Exhausted.

"It's incredibly frustrating," Dr. JT Snarski explained to NBC's correspondent Kerry Sanders. "Because we know vaccines are safe and effective. And it's people who go out and talk against them that really go against physicians and medicine and science." She stressed that vaccines are "safe" and that it's imperative we "get our communities vaccinated."

"The vaccine still remains the most effective and reliable way to stop this madness," said Dr. Leslie Diaz, an infectious disease specialist, while speaking to the public on Monday. "The face of COVID is the person standing next to you. It is the unknown, and it is very unpredictable."

For context about Florida in particular, Sanders reports that 85% of ICU beds in Florida are full, in addition to the hospitals in the state that actually have no ICU bed spots, and are instead resorting to other spaces, like conference rooms and cafeterias, for patients.

If you're assuming this group of overworked doctors also wants to see kids wearing masks in school, you'd be right. A pediatrician at Jupiter Medical Center, Dr. Sarrie Katz, stressed that to "help" the youngest child, we must "encourage" them to mask up, adding that she's personally seen children get sick with serious symptoms like shortness of breath.

You can watch an interview clip from the protest below.

Physicians stage walkout in South Florida and plea with the public to get vaccinated

Thankfully, on a nationwide scale, more and more entities are requiring the vaccine. For example, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that staff in all of the city's public schools must get at least one dose of the vaccine by Sept. 27. This rule applies to teachers, admin staff, and principals as well as cafeteria workers and custodians. This lines up with de Blasio's prior announcement that city employees must either get vaccinated or be tested for the virus on a weekly basis.

Also on Monday, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, John Kirby, said all service members would be required to get vaccinated.

"Father Knows Best": A One-Act Play

"MEDICAL TYRANNY" reads the screaming headline in large red letters behind Tucker Carlson as he broadcasts his show on Fox News.

CARLSON: It's purely about obedience, it's hardly about medicine. More than 150 health care workers in that Houston hospital system were fired just because they wouldn't be vaccinated, so remember that the next time they tell you there's a health care shortage in this country. This is lunacy. We should not go along with it. It has nothing to do with medicine. It is a terrifying precedent that, if we let solidify, we will deeply, deeply regret. This is not about Covid, this is about the existence of rational decision-making in this country and personal autonomy. Most people are going along with this because they are afraid. A few brave souls are not.

He shuffles his papers and puts them aside.

CARLSON: Ta-ta-da, da, da, da da! That's all folks!

VOICE OF PRODUCER: Thanks, Tucker! Another wrap.

CARLSON: Just a couple more weeks from this studio for the season. Love this place. Wish I could spend all my time here. On Bryant Pond. Maine. Bliss. A studio of my own, next to a summer place of my own. All my own.

VOICE: Florida, Tucker.

CARLSON: The studio will be up and running at my Florida house when I get there in September. Live, from Gasparilla Island in Grande Boca! Maine man becomes Florida man!

VOICE: Are we ever going to see you in D.C. or New York again?

CARLSON: Now why would I do that? Would that be quote rational decision-making unquote? Sold the big Washington house for that reason. They'd make me go into the Fox studio on the Hill. Half the technicians aren't vaccinated. It's a leprosy ward. Covid has made all my home studios possible. Who knew before the pandemic you could do this? What a breakthrough! And it's completely safe and sound. I owe this whole setup to Covid. It's a godsend. Plus, a tax write-off.

VOICE: We're all vaccinated now and we even have vaccine passports to get in the building.

CARLSON: I don't trust it. Some of those guys, I know them, would fake the passports. I'm in my studios so long as Lachlan says so.

Carlson leaves his custom studio in the cottage on his property, walks a short distance to his house and as he enters his daughter Hopie greets him.


HOPIE: Daddy, my girlfriends love what you brought me from Hungary. The dolls, the nesting dolls. What do they call them?

CARLSON: Matryoshka dolls. The prime minister Viktor Orban, gave them to me as a gift. And I told him that it had your name on it.

HOPIE: First, there's Putin. Then when you open him, there's Orban. And when you open Orban, there's Donald Trump. And then when you open Trump—surprise!—there's you, Daddy! I love you as a little doll. How did they know to put you inside all of the others?

CARLSON: They made that one in my honor. There's only one of these. It was like a state visit. And during state visits the leaders give each other presents. They always gave Trump paintings of himself. And this was the special gift for me. Only more clever.

HOPIE: Hand painted. It's the old you. With a bow tie.

CARLSON: So, are you almost ready to go back to school? Got all your clothes picked out?

HOPIE: Yes, Daddy.

CARLSON: And your proof of vaccination? I read the student vaccine requirement. "All students who live, learn, or work in person at the University of Virginia during the 2021-2022 academic year must be fully vaccinated." Don't forget your vaccination card.

HOPIE: (Exasperated) Daddy!

CARLSON: I'm just worried about you. I want you to be safe.

Enter Susan Carlson, Tucker's wife and Hopie's mother.

SUSAN: Tucker, there were two calls while you were broadcasting. Lachlan Murdoch and Donald Trump.

CARLSON: Susie, please make sure Hopie has her vaccination card to take to school.

SUSAN: All under control, right Hopie? Come with me, let's pack some more and leave Daddy to make his calls. Tucker, Trump seemed pretty urgent.

CARLSON: I've got to call Lachlan.

Susan and Hopie exit. Carlson punches in a number on his phone.

CARLSON: Lachlan!

LACHLAN: Tucker, so glad you called.

CARLSON: Everything cool down under?

LACHLAN: Swimming with the sharks at Bondi Beach, mate. Just checking in on my numero uno. The show on "Medical Tyranny," brilliant, mate. And brilliant about how we're going to be "invaded" by Afghan refugees. Turned that invasion bit inside out. We're being invaded! Heh, heh.

CARLSON: Heh, heh.

LACHLAN: The numbers remain spectacular, mate. Sky high. I'll take that instead of the woop woop to outer space with Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. Now, about this Covid stuff, mate…

CARLSON: (Slightly anxious) I should stick with it, don't you think?

LACHLAN: You said there's no new variant killing people, zero chance. You said, Fauci is taking away our liberty, forcing people to take medicine they don't want. You said, college kids shouldn't get the shot, a bigger risk for them than Covid.

CARLSON: Is that a problem?

LACHLAN: It's a bloody beauty. No drama. Good on ya. Put another on the barbie. Keep going to never never. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Flat out. That's not me blowing smoke up your ass. The numbers never lie. You're Braveheart.

CARLSON: I'll ramp it up on Fauciism. How's Rupert? Where is he these days, London, Sydney, New York?

LACHLAN: When the Delta variant hit, Dad got the booster and went back to Bel Air in L.A., like he did in the first wave after he got an early shot. It's a world in itself there. The house is on the Moraga Vineyards, fourteen acres in the middle of Bel Air, up in the Santa Monica Mountains. Once owned by Victor Fleming, directed Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Now who's the wizard from Oz? Makes ace wine. I'll ship you a case or two. Red or white?

CARLSON: Mix it up.

LACHLAN: Two cases of each. Make it three.

CARLSON: Send it to the Florida address.

LACHLAN: And I'm sending you a doctor to give you a booster to go along with the cabernet. Don't say no. You don't have a choice. The wine and the doctor will be there to meet you. Keep it going, mate.

CARLSON: Best to your father.

LACHLAN: Your biggest fan. Catch you later.

Carlson punches another number in his phone.

CARLSON: Mr. President?

TRUMP: Watched your show. Love "Medical Tyranny." How are the numbers? Still a winner, Tucker?

CARLSON: Top of the line, Mr. President.

TRUMP: I was just on Fox Business, told them that the booster sounded like a money-making operation for Pfizer and that the whole thing is just crazy. Why would you need another one? It's the Trump vaccine. It's good for life. I could see the dollar signs in their eyes—of that guy that runs Pfizer. You know, the guy that announced the day after the election that he had the vaccine. But we knew that, and I knew that, and the people knew that. A money-making operation, that's what it is. Yeah, a money-making operation.

CARLSON: You would know.

TRUMP: Who else would know better?

CARLSON: Great work, keep it up. So, what should I know, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I had Dr. Ronny come to Bedminster. Lined up everyone—Ivanka, Jared, Don, Jr., Eric, Lara---bing, bing, bing, bing. Everyone gets the booster. Oh, and that annoying Kimberley. Ivanka didn't want to tell her Dr. Ronny was there. Let her die out on the 9th hole.

CARLSON: Mr. President, what you said about the booster is perfect about the elites against the people.

TRUMP: Before I tell you what I think you should be saying, I want to tell you that you have to get the booster. You're vaccinated, Tucker, not like some poor schmuck, like the guy who wanted a shot when they were putting the ventilator on his face? He's begging, give me the shot and they're telling him it's too late, and they clamp on the ventilator. Please, please, the shot…

CARLSON: Pfizer, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Two shots, but maybe not enough. Booster. Take no chances. Take it and run. You're too valuable. You can knock that Pfizer CEO around like I did. It's a charm. My PAC fundraising, off the charts. You want me to send Dr. Ronny?

CARLSON: That's not necessary, Mr. President. I'm using the Murdoch doctor.

TRUMP: But promise me you'll get it.

CARLSON: I promise.

TRUMP: Father knows best.

Sidney Blumenthal, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has published three books of a projected five-volume political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Made Man, Wrestling With His Angel ,and All the Powers of Earth. His play This Town, about a scandalous White House dog, was produced in 1995 by LA TheatreWorks. This is the tenth in his "Trump Cycle" series of one-act plays published in The National Memo, including The Pardon, Epstein's Ghost, Ivanka's Choice, Sunset Boulevard, The Exclusive, The Role Model, A Modest Proposal, The Exit Interview, and The Hitler Gospel.

In A Pandemic, Don't Try To Reason With 'Arkansaw Lunkheads'

During the early days of the Covid-19 epidemic, my brother and I congratulated each other that we had little to fear. Descended from hardy Irish peasants who lived in dirt-floored hovels among farm animals, we'd inherited sturdy immune systems and pretty much never get sick.

Or so we assured each other.

Except, come to think of it, our maternal grandfather Michael Sheedy died during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic at age 34. His own father had died earlier the same year at 56. Our mother was five years old when her grandfather and father succumbed to influenza. Although she rarely spoke of it, her childhood had been a difficult one. All this in Elizabeth, New Jersey where we were born.

So maybe we needed to be a little less cocky and more careful, we agreed. Indeed, we both got ourselves and our wives as close to the front of the Covid-19 vaccination line as we could. I stubbornly stayed on hold throughout an entire BBC-TV documentary to make an appointment at the university hospital; my brother drove three hours each way to get his shot at a pharmacy he found online. Hardly heroic, but the right call.

That said, I've got a ready answer when people ask me what it's like to live in a place like Arkansas filled with Covid-deniers and vaccine resisters: See, I've been there before. Our mother grew up fearful and superstitious, more apt to credit the florid imaginings of her craziest sister than any doctor. Radio commentator Walter Winchell—the Tucker Carlson of his day—once opined that the miraculous Salk polio vaccine "might be a killer."

And that was that. No killer vaccine for her children. No how, no way. Although we dutifully toured the iron lung exhibit on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights—scarier than any haunted house—and while I dutifully prayed for a polio-stricken neighbor named "Ronnie" every night, I never got immunized until I enrolled in the Peace Corps at 24. I never actually met Ronnie, and have no idea what became of him.

Until I asked him, I never knew that my brother did receive the Salk vaccine after first being denied enrollment in the second grade. Our younger sister too. I somehow slipped through the cracks. No way was our mother going to risk all three children without being compelled. Charismatic and forceful in other arenas, my father knew better than to argue. Or maybe he shared her paranoia. It was always hard to tell.

Meanwhile, the national press has been filled with stories about Arkansas' quaint folkways and consequent sorrows. The Wall Street Journal interviewed a nurse in Greenwood, over near Fort Smith along the Oklahoma border. Both her parents came down with Covid after attending their 52nd high school reunion in July and died within three days of each other.

Devastated by grief, the nurse, Shanda Parrish, says she still won't take the vaccine. It's too untested, she thinks. She has a brother living near Washington, D.C., who's worn out arguing about it. His parents needn't have died, David Herring told a reporter, but for fear and ignorance.

"Their age and health conditions—they should have gotten vaccinated really early," he said. "And then trying to talk to friends of theirs, and hearing these ridiculous things about depopulation and computer chips."

The Journal also interviewed a local physician (and Republican state legislator) named Lee Johnson. Dr. Johnson urges his patients to take the COVD vaccines, although he cautions that making people "feel defensive for their passionately held opinion isn't productive."

As a politician, however, Johnson voted for Arkansas' crackpot law forbidding school districts and private employers from mandating face masks. So it's hard to know what to make of him. After a Little Rock judge found the law unconstitutional, GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson hired a Democratic lawyer from Fayetteville to help him resist the Republican Attorney General's effort to have the state Supreme Court re-instate the mask ban.

Meanwhile, local school boards all over Arkansas are requiring students and faculty to mask-up, even as angry protesters invoke their constitutional right to infect others with a deadly disease. Vaccination rates are rising sharply. And just across the border in Springfield, Missouri, the Kansas City Star reports, anti-vax activists showed up wearing yellow Stars of David to emphasize their victimization.

In short, it's all chaos and dark comedy; Mark Twain's "Arkansaw lunkheads" in action. If only pediatric wards statewide weren't filling up with children on ventilators it would be quite funny.

Trump, see, thought Covid might interfere with his re-election, so he told his followers the disease was a Democratic hoax. Many Arkansans believed him. Some would rather die than admit error. Now, they're too scared to think straight.

Anyway, here's what I learned at my mother's knee: You can't reason people into common sense. Sometimes, you just have to force the issue.

Don't Drink and Inoculate: Should You Avoid Alcohol When Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Many of us wanted to begin the year with a clean slate, which perhaps explains the prevalence of Dry January -- a month without alcohol consumption. Aside from the physical and mental benefits associated with a respite from drinking, banishing the booze may also help you to avoid legal problems related to overindulgence. After all, a second DUI conviction in the state of Pennsylvania can result in jail time and fines ranging from $300 to $2,500.

However, not everyone wants to give up alcohol completely for 31 days. But if you're going to be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine any time soon, some experts believe that you should refrain from any alcohol consumption immediately before and after you're inoculated.

In the era of COVID-19, we've taken a number of precautions to safeguard our health. We've worn masks, stayed six feet away from others, obsessively cleaned our homes and hands, and in some cases even invested in three-sided plastic table products in an effort to stop the spread. But undoubtedly one of the most essential steps to get us on the other side of the pandemic is widespread vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has a lot of room for improvement -- and it will likely be months or even years before everyone in the U.S. receives their doses. Convincing the public that these vaccines are safe is already proving to be a huge hurdle for medical professionals. While 48 percent of internet users conduct more than two weeks of research before scheduling a healthcare appointment, the skepticism surrounding the coronavirus vaccines is being driven by misinformation that can be readily found online. If you do opt to become vaccinated, as many who have already received the inoculations have pointed out, the process is quick and painless. But there's one step that some medical experts are suggesting that patients take: Refrain from drinking alcohol in the days leading up to and after you receive each dose of the vaccine.

It might seem like a strange request, but it's actually fairly simple. Drinking alcohol has been shown to suppress the immune system -- and that's exactly what you don't want when you're introducing a vaccine into the body. One 2015 study found that just one binge drinking session can cause physical inflammation in just a few hours' time and can have adverse effects on the body's ability to fight off infection and regulate the immune system. And although some medical professionals say that having a single glass of wine a day after you receive your vaccine might not have negative consequences, it's generally a good idea to refrain from any alcohol consumption in order to get your body ready and maximize the chance of having a good response to the vaccine.

Other countries have already urged citizens receiving COVID-19 vaccinations to cut back on drinking. According to Reuters, one Russian health official instructed residents to refrain from drinking for several weeks before and after receiving the Sputnik V vaccine. Considering the high levels of drinking among Russian citizens, the news caused some alarm -- although the vaccine's developer spoke out to say that the recommendations were too extreme. In the United Kingdom, health experts made recommendations to limit alcohol intake the day before and after receiving the vaccine. But in a new BBC documentary, medical professionals found that consuming even three glasses of Prosecco can cut down levels of white blood cells by half. Since these cells play a vital role in creating antibodies and protecting us from viruses, the findings caused quite a stir.

In the U.S., guidance on alcohol consumption and vaccines is mixed. William Moss, the executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, told Business Insider: "There's no evidence that, if you have one beer or a glass of wine a couple of days after you get your vaccine, that's going to interfere with your immune response or protection following the vaccine." And while Pfizer has stated that there is no warning that relates to alcohol consumption for vaccine recipients, others in the field have cautioned against anything more than moderate drinking in the days leading up to and following vaccination.

Ultimately, most agree that it's better to be safe than sorry. While you might not have to completely cut out alcohol for the sake of vaccination, it may be worth noting that a reluctance or refusal to do so could point to a larger problem in regard to substance abuse and dependence. In the end, making a lifestyle change for only a few days for the sake of protecting your body seems like a small sacrifice to make. To err on the side of caution -- and even to test your resolve -- you might want to find a healthier way to indulge during the week of your vaccination.