I am fully vaccinated.  My whole family is.  In the “duh” moment of my life, I pretty much realized I had to be.  Cancer is an ongoing foe, my heart is weak, I am prone to bouts with a bleeding ulcer, so yeah, I had to be.

I also wanted to be.  But my friends in southwest Missouri did not listen.  Some of these are even Democrats.  They are all in one form or another, good people.  These are people I witnessed work for the less fortunate, and pull together after the Joplin tornado.  They try to make their communities better places and work hard.  

They are also effing idiots, full stop.

I love them.  I really do, some of them I have known for over 20 years.  But Missouri is only 45 percent vaccinated with even one dose, not fully.  And while I know that SW MO is deep red, it is not just red with the problem:

Missouri is the number one state in the nation for the rate of new COVID cases. That is in a large part due to low vaccination rates in rural areas. Like any variant of this virus it spreads quickly and pays no mind to state, county, or city borders.

The Delta variant threatens St. Louis County. There is no doubt about that. Fortunately we have not seen increases in new COVID cases here yet. We have noticed a slight uptick in cases this week, averaging 50 new cases a day. We are not certain if that is a one time bump or a new trend. But, our health experts are watching it very closely.

St. Louis and St. Charles counties have among the highest percentages of those completing vaccination across the state at 41 and 42 percent, but the City of St. Louis is at just 32 percent.

Now I don’t need to tell anyone how blue the city of St. Louis is, do I?  So what is this cross-racial vaccine skepticism stemming from?

That lack of trust for many African American people comes from a long legacy of discrimination, exploitation, and mistreatment by the medical community. Most notably the Tuskegee Study, where Black men with syphilis were promised treatment, led to believe they were being treated, but were not. Many died, went blind, or developed other serious health issues. Then there is Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells were used for medical research by Johns Hopkins Hospital without her or her family’s knowledge and without financial compensation.

Kaiser Health News’ analysis of the CDC’s recent data shows only 22% of Black Americans have gotten a COVID-19 shot and that Black vaccination rates still lag behind white vaccination rates. Access, hesitancy, and structural inequities are all believed to play a part.

Ok that makes sense.  There is a justifiable distrust among people of color in listening to the government talk about what is best for them.  We can agree there is precedent for skepticism, although much of the anti-vaccine posts are being fueled by incessant posts on something, “book.”

The U.S. “dominates social media culture the way it dominates pop culture,” and not always to the world’s benefit, says Cameron Hickey, project director for algorithmic transparency at the National Conference on Citizenship, a civic organization based in Washington. He’s been researching misinformation in Spanish-speaking Facebook communities and says most of what circulates is “a carbon copy of rumors that we first see in English.”

Facebook says it has removed more than 18 million Facebook and Instagram posts for violating its Covid-19 misinformation policy. Still, major social media companies are constantly criticized for failing to crack down on misinformation in the U.S., and advocates complain their performance is even worse when dealing with content in languages other than English. The machine learning algorithms that companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube use for content moderation were built in English first and aren’t as effective in other languages, Hickey says. Advocates have also criticized the tech companies for not sufficiently staffing content moderation teams outside of the U.S.

I warned my friends.  I told them the vaccine is a good thing, that it saves lives.  I told them that everyone should get it that can that anybody with access to it should be grateful.  And over an dover and over again, I was rebuffed with memes, and falsehoods, and lies, and cleverly worded diatribes designed to look real.

Statistically, some of my friends will likely be sent to the ER, where they may die.  And I cry.  And i shake my head.  And I wish all sorts of things.  I wish we regulate social media.  i wish we would mandate the vaccine and take the political consequences that come with it.  I wish we had a better education system.

I wish there were fewer obituaries of people I have loved.  Some of those were unavoidable.

The ones that might come next, did not have to be written, at least not now, not from this, not from something we have a way of stopping.

It seems America has come full circle.  

When social media goes viral, it now means it literally.


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