On “Morning Joe” and Know Your Value, we have spent the past several months reporting on vaccine hesitancy among Americans. I have been imploring our viewers to take care of themselves and their families by getting vaccinated.
Often, the news we read places these skeptics in two distinct groups: Trump supporters or people of color. But over the past few weeks, I have learned that there are more people in my inner circle who still haven’t gotten the shots than I ever imagined. This past week I have been shocked five different times to discover this. They do not fit into a neat demographic group or political subset.
The people I am talking about are very close to me. I spent time with them over the summer. Shared meals and laughs together. They range from having advanced degrees to being high school graduates. They are from all regions of the country, are both white and people of color. Still, there is one thing that unites them all: social media. Especially Facebook. One tie that binds them is that they are all on Facebook every day.
These friends of mine feed daily on the misinformation that streams across their phones, iPads and computers. And when I ask why they have not been vaccinated, even I am stunned by the responses I receive and the basic questions that I am asked: “Don’t the vaccines give you Covid-19?”, “Isn’t the vaccine worthless against the delta variant?” or “Isn’t this just about making Dr. Anthony Fauci rich?”
In all of these cases, I bit my tongue, took a deep breath and told them the truth that they never see on the conspiracy websites and social media platforms they read daily. The disinformation that these people in my life were and are thriving on flows constantly to their screens that open directly to sites like Facebook 24 hours a day or come in the form of alerts on their phone. They think what they get off of their iPhone is news.
This has become so pervasive that Facebook, under increasing pressure to crack down on vaccine misinformation, recently said it removed over 3,000 accounts, pages and groups for repeatedly violating rules against spreading virus and vaccine misinformation, including taking down more than 20 million pieces of content.
I, however, remain shaken and deeply worried that these educated, emotionally intelligent and wonderful friends and neighbors of mine have all bought into the destructive dogma of this online death cult. Most happen to be women. Some work directly in the healthcare field. My approach has been not to stay silent but to speak to these friends diplomatically.
Fortunately, several decided to get the vaccine after we talked, but there are several others who still refuse. A very close family friend has ended up in the hospital with Covid-19 fearing for her life. Our family has felt deep compassion for her and so many other Americans who, like her, believed the lies that they were constantly fed online and on certain cable news channels.
I cannot imagine the loneliness, fear and regret that victims of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” face alone in a hospital room as doctors intubate them. Maybe that is why I am so upset by the angry tweets and online articles that target these people who are suffering through their own personal hell.
To me, attacking those with Covid-19 seems to be the worst of our monsters coming out into the open. It is just as destructive as the disinformation that has pulled our country into this terrible place. I’m pretty sure everyone I have written about will read this piece so I will say it again: I love you. Please get vaccinated.
Please, I am begging you, protect yourself and others from this awful pandemic.