Sunday, September 26, 2021

I won’t take the COVID-19 vaccine!

 Recently, I faced 3 patients who had chosen not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  Interestingly, each had a different reason underlying their hesitancy. 

The first patient gave an adamant refusal that there is no way he would ever submit to the vaccine.  He didn’t trust the government.  The second patient offered the canard that the approval process was rushed.  The third patient had simply procrastinated.  Her family members had all been vaccinated and she has received many other vaccinations.  She was simply perched on the fence and hadn’t moved.

I offered counsel to Patients #2 and #3 as I felt there was a chance I might have impact with them.  I hope that I did.

Stop Vaccine Tyranny!

The walls are closing in on the unvaccinated.  With the recent formal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and the increasing number of businesses, organizations and venues that will only admit the vaccinated, the vast space that the unvaccinated have inhabited is fast shrinking.  Will the unvaccinated be able to function if they cannot attend a concert, visit a museum, dine at a restaurant, take ground or air transportation, attend theater or even their place of employment?

Some will submit to the vaccine because rising inconveniences would be unbearable.  Others may belatedly decide on the merits that the vaccines make sense.  And yes, there will be some diehards who will continue to reject reason and science.   For them, rolling up their sleeves or donning a mask is to surrender.  We saw during Hurricane Ida, as we do in all prior deadly storms, when some folks reject all of the repeated dire warnings to evacuate and hunker down instead.

 It’s hard to understand how some folks place themselves in avoidable danger just to prove a point. I have a different understanding of what they are actually proving to the rest of us. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

TSA Fails to Protect Passengers from COVID-19

We are taught from a young age to finish the entire job.  I confess that I still need reminding on this virtue.

I suspect that all of us must plead guilty to partial task completion from time to time.  Have you ever washed some of the dishes remaining in the sink?  How about cleaning out part of the garage and rationalizing that this is enough work for one day.  How many of us have projects around the house that are waiting patiently for our attention as they sit frozen in time?

There are more stark examples  when stopping short if the finish line is downright absurd.

Consider some examples extracted from my imagination.

  • An artist paints only on one side of the canvas, and I don’t mean for artistic reasons.
  • A car wash cleans only the rear section of automobiles.
  • A publisher distributes books that are 100 pages short of their true length.

Silly, right?

It’s easy to conjure up similar examples regarding the medical universe.

  • A surgeon washes only one hand prior to surgery.
  • A doctor prescribes antibiotics for only half of the standard number of days.
  • A hospital housekeeper cleans half of a patient’s room after discharge.
  • A gastroenterologist begins a colonoscopy and decides to end the procedure at the halfway mark.

In these examples, the medical interventions are all pointing in the right direction, but they are simply insufficient. 

Half measures are called that for a reason.

We're Half Safe on Airplanes Today

Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extended its mask requirement for travelers using air and ground transportation from September 13th to January 18,2022.

This is the Mother of All Half Measures.  Yes, we know that masks have impact and I have been wearing one more often since the Delta variant has taken off.  But the better response – which every responsible public health expert (or even novice) endorses - is vaccination.  If COVID-19 vaccine has incredible safety and efficacy data, far superior to masking, then why doesn’t the TSA require this?  Technically, it wouldn’t be a vaccine mandate since the individual is still free to forego travel. But I suspect it would make vaccination more attractive for those that wish to use public transportation and air travel. 

In addition, masked travelers are permitted to demask when taking food or drink, which markedly decreases the masks’ effectiveness. 

If we are wheeled into the surgical suite to hear the scrub nurse in the operating room announce that half the instruments have been sterilized, wouldn’t we be sprinting out of there like a race horse?

Why then are we satisfied traveling if we are only half protected?



Sunday, September 12, 2021

Religious Exemptions to the COVID-19 Vaccine

We have all been counseled to avoid discussing religion and politics in order to reduce the risk of a hostile encounter.  I recall being reminded of this maxim when dining with a new acquaintance many years ago.  My response?  ‘That’s all I like to talk about!’

I am writing this at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday and I’ve already had multiple conversations – both directly and electronically – with people in my life on both of these radioactive subjects.  As far as I know, all of the friendships remain whole.  Indeed, these debates and exchanges serve to fortify our friendships rather than to threaten them.

I recognized that discussing religion can be fraught for many individuals and might be best avoided for them.  Same with politics.  Many a thanksgiving dinner has been sullied by someone who decides to serve as the family turkey 

Look at the national response when a Colorado baker refused to bake a wedding cake for gay couple in 2012.  The cake shop owner claimed this violated his religious beliefs at a time that the state did not recognize same-sex marriage.

Praying for Wisdom

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided fuel for some to argue that the vaccine encroaches on their religious freedom.  Indeed, federal law provides for a vaccine exemption for a sincerely held religious belief.  (Individuals can also claim a medical disability exemption under the Americans with Disability Act.)  If the exemption claims are legitimate, then the employee is entitled to receive a reasonable accommodation at the workplace so long as this would not pose undue hardship on the employer.

While defining a medical disability can be somewhat objective, how does one define a religion?  This is murky terrain.  Try to do this yourself before reading further and you’ll see what I mean.

Here’s a summary statement on the definition of religion taken from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The presence of a deity or deities is not necessary for a religion to receive protection under Title VII.  Religious beliefs can include unique beliefs held by a few or even one individual; however, mere personal preferences are not religious beliefs.  Individuals who do not practice any religion are also protected from discrimination on the basis of religion or lack thereof.  

Seems rather a broad definition to me.  The courts will be charged with defining religion and they will need Solomonic wisdom to achieve this.  Might veganism or vegetarianism be religions?  Satanism?  Atheism? One man’s religion is another man’s cult.  All of this will be good news for discrimination lawyers whose prayers for prosperity have been answered.  


Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Meaning of Labor Day 2021

Labor Day, which honors American workers, was established well over a century ago in 1894. The holiday emerged from a cauldron of worker unrest protesting against harsh, unfair and unsafe working conditions.  Indeed, there were strikes and even violence in the early years of the fight for workers’ rights.  Over the ensuing decades, organized labor gained membership and power as increasing numbers of workers sought out union protections.   Those numbers have declined over time for several reasons.  Currently, about 11% of workers belong to unions.

While I have not always supported organized labor’s positions and actions, I certainly agree that every employee -union or non-union - is entitled to a fair wage and safe working conditions.

It’s been a very tough year for labor and for the rest of us.  When a company or a business is forced to close by an enemy that we can’t see or touch, toxic ripples spread out far and wide.   When a restaurant shuts down, for example, imagine how many people are impacted directly and indirectly.

Many important holidays seem to have lost their meaning.  Labor Day for many has become a day to purchase sale items or to throw burgers on the grill.  Memorial Day’s significance has similarly dimmed.

Let's honor all those who have built this country, fought for fairness and are still laboring to lead us forward.