For those of you fully vaccinated, please join me in a little experiment. It won’t take long.
Take a fork or a set of keys or, I don’t know, maybe your kid’s Mechagodzilla and stick it to your forehead. Or a spare cheek. Or maybe your pinky finger.
If the piece of metal falls off, you know someone, somewhere, is being duped. If you send me photos of pieces of metal sticking to random body parts and you haven’t been using Major League Baseball’s sticky stuff, I’ll call BS. Or PS (for photo-shopped).
If you haven’t heard, this is the latest, and among the craziest, anti-vax conspiracy theories — that getting the COVID-19 vaccine shots will make you magnetic. They’re not talking about your personality. No, they think you’ll become Iron Man. Or maybe Woman of Steel. I’m not sure if it’s as crazy as the Bill Gates microchip theory — in which, according to a YouGuv poll, 44% of Republicans believe— although it is conceivable, I guess, that someone could put a chip or, for that matter, a metal plate in your head. You still wouldn’t stick to the refrigerator, though.
I bring this up not only because it’s off-the-wall nuts, but because an actual doctor — though a prominent anti-vaxxer, Sherri Tenpenny — was called to testify before a Republican-led Ohio legislative committee on the topic.
Here’s Tenpenny’s testimony in part: “I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the Internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized. They can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that.”
Seriously. And you wonder why something like half of Americans still haven’t gotten vaccinated. Could it be, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank suggests, a fear of becoming stuck to a passing UPS truck?
This latest round of craziness comes at yet one more critical juncture in coronavirus history. Just before the G-7 meeting of wealthy democracies began in Britain, Joe Biden pledged to buy and give away a half-billion doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The rest of the G-7 joined Biden and pledged another half-billion doses of vaccine.
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And while that’s not nearly enough to vaccinate world-wide, it is, as they say, a start. And you could put this down to belated good works from the world’s richest democracies or you could see it as a geopolitical reaction to the fact that China and Russia have pushed well ahead of the West in supplying vaccines for poorer countries. Motives are probably mixed, but motive, at this stage, is largely irrelevant. The fact that so many are dying across the world, with no chance to be vaccinated, is what’s relevant. And there’s another relevant fact: So long as variants spread worldwide, they could still be coming to a city near you.
Biden did go for the expected spin: “American workers will now produce vaccines that save lives of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean — people they will never meet and have never met. Places they’ve never visited and probably won’t have an opportunity to. But lives saved all the same, thanks to American leadership, American workers, hard work and values.”
And American workers can also safely produce and send out hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine to the world because, in part, it’s getting harder and harder to get actual Americans, workers or not, with American values or not, to take the shots themselves.
According to a Washington Post analysis, we’re averaging fewer than 1 million shots per day — The Associated Press puts it at 400,000 — a far cry from the more than 3 million-a-day shot total in April, which came before those aged 12 to 17 were eligible. And before anyone was offering free donuts or free beer or even free marijuana if people would only get their shots.
Biden has been pushing for 70% of adults to be vaccinated by the Fourth of July backyard barbecue season, but the number is now expected to fall well short. Missing an arbitrary deadline may not be actual news, but the fact that states are canceling orders for millions of free doses, that’s headline news.
When in Colorado, 12 counties have surpassed the 70% percent mark — including most of the Denver metro area — while 16 counties check in with fewer than 40% vaccinated, you can see the good-news, bad-news dichotomy plainly enough. Is it just me, or do you rarely hear the term “herd immunity” anymore?
A Colorado study shows that nearly all those who have come down with COVID-19 since last Jan. 15 have not been fully vaccinated. Here’s a statistic that couldn’t be more telling: Around 0.1% of the state’s fully immunized have developed the virus. If my math is right, that’s a one-in-a-thousand shot, which is far better odds than winning the state’s get-your-vax, million-dollar lottery.
Meanwhile, coronavirus variants have hit the world hard as billions are begging for vaccines. In Mesa County, the Delta COVID-19 variant, first seen in India, has reached the point that the county sent out a public health alert, asking residents to get vaccinated or at least wear masks.
As of Tuesday, the county had 242 cases per 100,000 residents — a positivity rate of greater than 6%. But the scariest part about it is that the variant has hit young people. According to the alert, 138 people aged 10 to 19 have been infected and 50 more under the age of 10. If you’re wondering whether to vaccinate your young kids when the FDA considers it safe, you might want to consider those numbers.
“We’re considering this an emergency,” Jeff Kuhr, executive director of Mesa County Public Health, told Colorado Public Radio, noting, too, that “I’ve always said, sure, it’s your choice to get vaccinated, but protecting your community has to be all of us working together. Now more than ever.”
But as Mesa struggles with its emergency, it must be noted that just 38% of county residents have been fully vaccinated. Biden is sending a half a billion doses around the world, but there are still plenty available for anyone in Mesa County or, for that matter, anyone anywhere else in America, if only they’ll get the shots.
That’s the message that requires real sticking power.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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