On Friday two people known to me personally (“in real life,” as they say) emailed me separately that they awoke with Covid symptoms. Both have since been diagnosed as SARS-CoV-2 positive. This revelation brought home to me how close Covid has now come to my own life and how virulent the problem has become in England. Like me, one of them was thrice vaccinated. Unlike me she’d also had Covid once before.
But it also brought home something else, an unfortunate realisation that her revelation will be received by many as “proof” that the vaccine has somehow failed. That is why it is so vitally important that science fundamentals be taught in schools. Were more people educated to recognize the difference between a single anecdote and statistics it wouldn’t be necessary to qualify her revelation.
But the fact remains that the vast majority of people who are put on ventilators or who die of Covid are unvaccinated. The significant majority of the vaccinated don’t come down with it in the first place. Those are powerful statistics, but only as powerful as a person’s capacity to understand statistics — and no more.
So it’s little wonder that when Donald Trump revealed to a Dallas audience on Sunday night that he had received the booster shot of the Covid-19 vaccine he got booed. The monster Trump personally created has come back to bite him. Trump supporters are by definition ignorant, and ignorant people fear and hate science the way the movie version of Frankenstein’s monster feared and hated fire.
Trump made the revelation during his final stop of his so-called “History Tour,” a live interview show he has been doing with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly asked Trump, “Did you get the booster?” Trump replied, “Yes,” triggering boos and hectoring. “Don’t! Don’t! Don’t! Don’t! Don’t!” Trump told the crowd, waving off their reaction. Trump previously told the Wall Street Journal in a September interview that he “probably” wouldn’t get a booster shot. He clearly either lied or changed his mind.
“You’re playing right into their hands when you sort of like, ‘Oh the vaccine,'” Trump added. “If you don’t want to take it, you shouldn’t be forced to take it. No mandates,” he said, drawing cheers. “But take credit because we saved tens of millions of lives. Take credit. Don’t let them take that away from you.” Trump was repeating a false claim that he’d made before, that he’d saved hundreds of millions of lives as a result of “Operation Warp Speed.”
In fact the first vaccine came from BioNTech’s laboratories in Mainz, Germany. BioNTech received €375 million (US$445 million) from, not the United States, but from the government of Germany in order to accelerate the development and production capacity of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer said that the company decided against taking direct Warp Speed funding for the development of the vaccine out of a desire “to liberate our scientists [from] any bureaucracy that comes with having to give reports and agree how we are going to spend the money in parallel or together.”
So Trump can’t really take credit for anything. The only thing the Trump administration did was to fund vaccine research. But any government with the money to do so would have done that. The Biden administration continues to fund vaccines, therapies and cures. They don’t expect a medal for it.
But the Biden administration has done even more than that. They have vigorously promoted the vital importance of the vaccine, funded its lightning-fast distribution, educated people against vaccine conspiracy theories and unequivocally discouraged vaccine hesitancy.
Of course, vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccine sentiment has been around for centuries. But Trump and people like him have given this particular brand of ignorance wings. This ignorant monster Trump has created has killed hundreds of thousands of people and it will ultimately kill millions. Trump should be held responsible for the deaths he’s caused and this monster of ignorance he created and continues to promote. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.