EDITORIAL: Scare tactics aren’t science

AN OVER-SIZED POSTCARD appeared in our mailbox this week. On the postage side of the card the headline reads: “THE FACTS,” and below are five statements, some of which may be true and one which lists bad outcomes from the Covid-19 vaccine. Postcards seldom do a good job explaining context.

The postcard listed five different web addresses, but there was no one individual or group taking responsibility for the contents of the card. At the bottom of the card it says “This mailing was paid for by Caring people like you…” and sure enough, the website above that message takes you to a site where you can donate to others who say they are Caring People like you. But still no names. So let’s just identify them by their non-profit mailing permit: “Postal Permit No. 4” from Chatham.

These folks tell us that “Covid is less dangerous for children than the common flu” and adds a footnote to cite the source for this statement. This footnote, in tiny print that stretches half the length of the mega-postcard, is apparently a link to a National Public Radio broadcast transcript, which says: “In kids the risks of Covid 19 and the flu are similar but the risk perception isn (sic)” and it cuts off right there. Footnotes are used to support statements, not contradict them. So who should we believe, an unidentified Postal Permit holder or National Public Radio?

Maybe Postal Permit No. 4 skipped English class the day they taught footnotes. No big deal, right? But not when the subject is a life threatening illness that has been with us for nearly two years and continues to spread. In that case, details matter, especially if the details involve science—like epidemiology, biochemistry and clinical practice. This often involves lots and lots of footnotes. Sometimes they can save lives.

The other side of the postcard carries the visual punch. In look and language it appears to come from a source other than the Postal Permit No. 4 folks. It shows the end of a larger-than-life hypodermic needle and syringe hovering above a medicine vial. There are four related but separate messages here. The first asks whether vaccinating children against Covid-19 is “Playing Russian Roulette with our Children?” That’s what the caring people of Postal Permit No. 4 are doing .

The second message claims: “Not one healthy child has died from Covid.” No speaker is credited with making this creepy statement. And no wonder. Where is the scientifically valid footnote on this one?

For the moment, vaccines offer the best protection currently available for children and adults.

The people who created and distributed the card chose a strategic time to launch this mailing. It seems like an effort to frighten parents and convince them not to get their kids vaccinated at a pop-up clinic staffed by the county in Chatham as this is written. That’s their right. And it’s our right to call them out for confusing people scare tactics.
But one thing you can do is consider who you should trust in this time of Covid. The big drug companies? Big government? Big retail? (Did you know you can get Covid-19 vaccinations at Walmart?).

Maybe you mistrust all these institutions for their greed or any number of bad experiences. But you can’t just write off our neighbors, the public health medical personnel, the teachers, firefighters and rescue squad members. Most of them are vaccinated. Would they mislead you?

We live in communities where connection between neighbors is still the norm. So check with people you know. Check with your doctor or nurse, not a stranger. Don’t let people who aren’t trained in—or who reject—current science be your only source.

A community that needlessly frightens its residents cannot endure. This county is a community worth the effort. Don’t play “Russian Roulette” with the health of your children or yourself. Don’t accept the advice of self-appointed experts. Watch for the footnotes and get your family vaccinated.

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