Public Health and Public Safety: Step Up or Step Out

So here it is. This is what it’s come to. We are over a year and a half into the COVID 19 pandemic. We have vaccines. We have improved treatments on the horizon. Yet we still have a long way to go. Why? Because people who are able to do so refuse to get vaccinated and even refuse to wear masks and practice other precautions. It’s inexcusable among the public, unforgivable for those who work in public health and public safety.

Those who work in public health and public safety are entrusted with the health and safety of the public. In order to do so we not only need to take care of ourselves, but also do what we can to protect each other and the public. We seem to have a rash of issues lately, such as:

  • A state trooper, ‘forced’ to resign because he didn’t comply with a vaccine mandate, signing off of his last transmission with a statement of ‘the governor can kiss my ass’. From all I’ve heard, this trooper had a great career and made a big difference – yet this temper tantrum is what most people are talking about.
  • Hundreds of health workers ‘forced’ to resign or being fired because of their lack of compliance with vaccine mandates.
  • A large number of attendees of a recent emergency management conference not wearing masks during the conference, despite repeated written and verbal instructions from the host organization to do so before and during the conference.
  • Hundreds of corrections officers potentially being ‘forced’ to resign or being fired because of their lack of compliance with vaccine mandates.

Public health and public safety have never been about individual freedoms, rather they are focused on what is good for the public as a whole. Yes, we should be taking precautions to protect ourselves, but we also do so to protect our co-workers and the public we are entrusted with caring for and serving. While some choose to make this a political issue, I have colleagues across much of the political spectrum who have maintained vigilance and care in the office, with the public, with their families, and even off duty by getting vaccinated and practicing other precautionary measures as appropriate. Some choose to make it a matter of religious freedom, yet the leaders of every major world religion are encouraging their followers to get vaccinated and take precautions.

It seems a simple, and respectful thing to get vaccinated and to also take these precautions when on duty and representing your agency, but also as much as possible beyond that. I’ll grant that some social situations can be challenging, but we can and should maintain an appropriate measure of vigilance, again not just for the benefit of yourself, but also for the benefit and respect of others. Doing so isn’t about ‘being a sheep’ or following some fascist rule of law. It’s about health, safety, and respect.

I’ve seen some disregard vaccinations and precautionary measures because they are not 100% effective, therefore they must be a joke or the science must be wrong. Consider that careful driving, the wearing of seatbelts, and vehicles with airbags aren’t foolproof preventers of injury or death in a car accident., either. Nothing is foolproof, especially when there are so many fools. We do the best we can with what we have and if we want to be true professionals in public health and public safety we need to lead by example.

My disappointment in public health and public safety personnel who flaunt and disregard these standards is high, regardless of their rank, station, or prior accomplishments. As such, I say: step up or step out. If you don’t have a regard for yourself, your family, your coworkers, and the public; then you should likely seek a different profession. If you are in these professions, but aren’t doing what you can to prevent the spread of the pandemic, I’m not sure what you stand for. This is a pandemic. It’s serious. Though it may not cause something as severe or dramatic as people randomly collapsing to their death in the streets, it has caused over 700,000 deaths in the US alone so far, as well as serious and lasting effects for many survivors.

I’ll close with this… I always encourage and welcome dialogue, discussion, and different points of view in response to my posts. That’s not changing, but I will say that science deniers, conspiracy theorists, and those espousing fuzzy math need not respond. Those aren’t informed opinions and certainly don’t lead to intelligent dialogue.

TR

3 thoughts on “Public Health and Public Safety: Step Up or Step Out

  1. As an ICU nurse with a background in ethics and mass-casualty events such as Covid, I have no illusions about its effects, and feel the same deep obligation that you do to keep myself, my patients, my coworkers, and my loved ones safe. I emphasize I would never advise anyone I don’t know against getting the vaccine. But employer or governmental force of this vaccine, one that uses such unprecedented technology as the Pfizer and Moderna versions, is not the right policy (The J&J uses more traditional techniques but appears less effective).

    The usual defensive claim that the vaccine is safe and effective is only known to be accurate in the short term. What all experts I’ve talked to agree is that the vaccines are too new for us to know anything about their longterm effects. In a few years are we going to see millions of vaccinated people getting not Covid but cardiovascular or cerebrovascular events or dementia, perhaps cancer? In approving the Pfizer vaccine the FDA appears to have ignored this issue (https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-covid-19-vaccine, accessed September 1, 2021).

    I suspect public-health preparedness for that type of public health emergency is lacking. That emergency may disproportionately affect healthcare workers, we who are under the gun of vaccine mandates for the longest, and may reduce our numbers as patients surge into hospitals again. Is even the vaccine injury compensation mechanism ready for such a number of claims?

    Lastly, whatever the negative effects of the vaccine are, they are likely to become more prevalent with the frequency of vaccinations. This means that the apparent necessity of booster shots will worsen the emergency I suspect, 10, 5, or even 2 years from now.

    For these first 22 months of the pandemic,I’ve kept my patients, colleagues, and loved ones safe by hand hygiene, masking and testing, with 100% effectiveness. The number of bad medical effects of these precautions is close to zero, compared to the unknown longterm effects of the mRNA vaccines.
    US law endorsed forced sterilization until it was overturned in 1942. As sterilization should be a choice of a patient in consultation with his/her health professionals, so should vaccination with a vaccine of unknown effects.

    1. Hey David,
      My understanding with vaccines, regardless of the technology used, is that the body metabolizes them in a few days or weeks, only leaving behind an immune system ready to combat the virus of concern. While this application of mRNA is new, the use of it is not. Overall, in looking at the information provided by CDC on the entire history of vaccines in the US, there has never been a vaccine with any identifiable long term effects. Most have been statistically safe in the short term. While there have been some vaccines with short term impacts, those have been a mix of manufacturing issues and ingredients of the vaccine itself. These issues have continued to refine the CDC’s processes for testing and approving vaccines through the years.

      All that said, anything new certainly lends some concern and is worthy of ongoing study. Science can only state the facts as they are currently understood, and that understanding can change with time. Certainly combating the pandemic, as you indicated, requires a multifaceted approach. Given that it’s not my area of expertise, I have to rely on others to dumb it down for me. While there are a lot of sources out there, some good, some bad, many in between; I’ve greatly come to appreciate the information provided (and the manner in which it is presented) by Drs. Steier (public health scientist) and Love (immunologist and microbiologist) who host the Unbiased Science Podcast. https://www.unbiasedscipod.com/ I highly recommend their material.

      Thanks for your thoughts on this. All extremely valid.

      Tim

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