Opinion: Unvaccinated adults, L.A. Times readers are infuriated with you

·5 min read
Los Angeles, CA - July 16: Mothers In Action hosts a mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic, in collaboration L.A. County Department of Public Health at Mothers in Action on Friday, July 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a mobile vaccination clinic in Los Angeles on July 16. (Los Angeles Times)

Pandemic-weary readers are upset. On the early upswing of what feels like another COVID-19 surge, they're expressing not the grief and worry they did when local hospitals filled almost to their breaking point last winter and Los Angeles County peaked at more than 300 daily deaths, but anger at the people most likely to get sick. That's because up until spring, most of us were immunologically defenseless against the coronavirus; now, we have three vaccines in wide circulation, but enough adults have declined immunization to allow the highly contagious Delta variant to take hold.

In other words, we prolonged this pandemic by choice, and vaccinated readers who obeyed public health dictates for more than a year and kept their children home from school are furious over the prospect of more illness, more death and less freedom. Over the last week we've published letters reflecting these emotions; there have even been calls for immunization mandates and restrictions on the ability of willfully unvaccinated adults to visit public places.

As cases and hospitalizations continue to rise — and especially if deaths hit levels seen in previous surges and restrictions come back into force — expect to read letters like these throughout what was supposed to be our victorious post-pandemic summer.

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To the editor: I agree with your July 20 editorial that it's past time to get tough on vaccine evaders. They are putting everyone else and our economy in danger.

Public and private employers should require workers who wish to keep their jobs to be vaccinated (with very limited exceptions) or submit to COVID-19 testing on a daily basis at their own expense. This includes L.A. city and county employees, especially police, firefighters, other emergency personnel and workers in high-risk settings such as hospitals.

Businesses and venues should require vaccination for entry and testing for those who cannot be vaccinated.

One anecdote illustrates how effective such measures might be. My son has an acquaintance who is an anti-vaxxer and refused for months to get his COVID-19 shots, even in the face of everything we now know about their safety and effectiveness and despite regular pleading by his wife. He then discovered that a rock band he got tickets to see in concert requires the vaccine for entry. He got his first shot the next day.

Judy Pang, Palos Verdes Estates

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To the editor: It has become political suicide for businesses and politicians to require a vaccine. There is another solution.

For people who are eligible but refuse to vaccinate, their health insurance premiums should go up accordingly, and they should be refused the subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act.

People will still have a choice: They can save money on their insurance by getting the vaccine, or they can pay for the cost of fighting this virus.

Wendy Velasco, Whittier

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To the editor: On CNN recently, I saw the Alabama governor describing her frustration with unvaccinated residents who ignore science and common sense while spreading the virus.

Then CNN interviewed a member of the Torrance City Council who was upset about the return of the L.A. County indoor mask mandate, because he believes he should have the freedom to do whatever he wants with his own body.

It's early, but so far the score is Alabama 1, Torrance 0.

Robin Blomquist, Torrance

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To the editor: On behalf of COVID-19, I would like to thank the people behind the movement to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. They are keeping me alive, helping me mutate and spread, by politicizing mask wearing and safety protocols and for making it impossible for Newsom to do his job.

Sincerely, Delta.

Carey Okrand, Sherman Oaks

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To the editor: As Newsom and other officials ponder advice to reinstitute mask mandates for all Californians, vaccinated or not, I've begun to feel like a sibling in a large family where the parents are flailing and failing, imposing a series of contradictory incentives to encourage compliance.

First we're told that the reward for getting vaccinated would be increased freedom to shop, travel and gather without masks. Financial incentives were also offered, but that didn't work well enough. Now we hear that if we get vaccinated we won't need masks but may have to wear them anyway because our bratty kid brother continues to refuse the vaccine.

The hollow promise, like the empty threat, is a sure sign that us kids can get away with doing whatever we want. If the parents consulted an advice columnist, they'd be told to set clear boundaries, with consequences if expectations are not met, and then stick to their guns.

Is it too much to ask that our elected representatives follow this advice?

Tim Walker, Santa Barbara

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To the editor: Anti-vaxxers don't eschew vaccination because they want to get sick and die. They do it because they believe in the veracity of what they read and hear online.

Their faithful belief in the anti-vaccine narrative is no different neurologically and physiologically from a belief in God; indeed, it is adherence to the anti-vaccine doctrine that provides them with neurological feelings of security and belonging.

Anti-vaxxers are neither obtuse nor evil, ignorant nor contemptible. They, like those of us who celebrated our jabs, are simply trying to make sense out of life, and belief in the anti-vaccine narrative provides that sense of order and comfort.

Recognizing this beautifully human frailty with compassion and warmth is perhaps the greatest gift we can offer during such a trying time.

Daniel Weintraub, Sherman Oaks

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.