“Safe and Effective” In the COVID-19 Dystopia

    “Safe and effective.” That is a phrase you are going to be hearing a lot in the next few weeks as we head toward election day.
            “Safe and effective” is the standard that we expect when assessing medical interventions. In the context of a COVID-19 vaccination, we expect that any offered vaccine will be “safe and effective” before it is widely distributed to the general public.
            The problem, of course, is that with all the disinformation that we receive from numerous sources, none of us really knows who to trust as we try to evaluate whether a medical intervention is “safe and effective” or not.
            I trust my doctor. And I trust her to get her information from reputable sources. When it comes time for me to decide about whether or not to get a vaccination, I am going to either have to trust her, or find another doctor that I can trust.
            My assumption of course is that I will have a choice about whether or not to get a COVID vaccination when it becomes available. I assume that I still have the freedom to decide what goes into my body.
            But maybe in the dystopia that we live in today, that is a false assumption. Maybe none of us will get to decide what goes into our bodies. Or if we do have the freedom of choice, maybe the choice will be a false one because we will base that decision on deliberately or negligently false information about what is “safe and effective.”
            Every day that goes by in this crazy 2020 and this absurd election season hijacked by social media conspiracies and disinformation from the highest levels of government, I start to believe that I am living in a dystopian Orwellian novel.
            Really. Look at the headlines in the daily newspaper. Who would have ever thought that this “news” would become the reality of our lives. I never did. I thought the stuff we read today was confined to the imaginations of writers and filmmakers.
            Sometimes folks say, “you couldn’t make this up,” to address a turn of events that seems completely detached from reality. Our whole 2020 existence seemed at one time like it could not be made up because it would be so unbelievable, and yet here we are.
            And here is the reality. Somebody is going to have to be first to get the vaccine. Who is it going to be? And will that person have a choice.
            I have been thinking about the possibility that public employers will force their public employees to get vaccinated in order to continue in their employment. I can see the government mandating that those on public assistance get vaccinated in order to continue to receive benefits. I can see schoolchildren in our public schools becoming guinea pigs in order to be able to attend classes in public spaces. The nightmare scenarios go on and on.
            And here’s the thing. You might think that our Bill of Rights will protect us. You would be wrong.
            As for workers, employers can mandate testing and vaccinations provided the procedures are “job-related, consistent with business necessity, and no more intrusive than necessary.” In places where employees regularly interact with immune-compromised people, the standard is fairly easy to meet.
            The time to really start talking about this issue is now. The time for the legislature and Congress to act is now. Either we are going to be in control of our bodies this fall, or the government is. I choose us as individuals.

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