The COVID-19 coronavirus will continue to spread around the nation and mutate so long as there are selfish citizens who continue to disregard public health officials, the medical research community, and the president of the United States. As long as there are individuals who refuse to understand the seriousness of COVID-19 and its various mutations:
alpha (or B.1.1.7 variant first detected in Britain)
beta or B.1.351 first appearing in South Africa)
gamma (P.1 first detected in South Africa)
delta (the highly contagious variant also known as B.1.671.2 that first appeared in India and which is now sweeping the world)
iota (or B.1.526 that was first detected in the U.S.)
kappa (or B.1.617.1 that first appeared in India
lambda (or C.37, which first appeared in Peru and is more contagious and harmful than all of its predecessors).
The virus will continue to mutate until there are no longer any viable hosts for it to infect. It should also be noted that three additional COVID-19 mutations—epsilon, zeta, and theta—have gone dormant but there is always the possibility that they could reappear and spread given the lack of vaccinated individuals who either refuse the inoculation for purely selfish reasons that are either political or religious or live in countries where vaccines have not been administered due to lack of availability.
During the 1918 so-called Spanish flu pandemic, also known as the Great Influenza, few people disregarded public health authorities and the Red Cross when it came to wearing masks, quarantining, or engaging in good hygienic practices. That was because those Americans, our grandparents and great grandparents, exercised better judgment and displayed selflessness as good citizens. The same does not hold true today. Selfishness and irresponsibility now rule the day.
Unfortunately, for the people of 1918 to 1920, there were no vaccinations yet developed to combat the Spanish flu. It ran its course until some 500 million people around the world were infected and as many as 100 million of them died from the virus. The crying shame is that these victims, who were largely responsible enough to heed the medical science of their day, were more valuable members of society than the selfish miscreants of today who disregard wearing masks in public, refuse to be vaccinated, spread shameful conspiracy theories, cite medical fraudsters as experts, tout dangerous treatments and placebos, and combine a disregard for public health with support for Donald Trump.
Those who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID are ensuring the survival and further mutation of the virus. There are nearly 200 million cases of COVID in the world with some 4,252,000 deaths globally. Thanks to the incompetence and politicization of the virus by the Trump administration and Republican governors in Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, and other states, the United States leads the world in both infections and deaths.
And here is some news for all those right-wing religious schmucks who are always yammering on about the “rights of the unborn.” Today, throughout the United States, there are COVID prenatal intensive care units popping up in hospitals to treat pregnant women who have the delta variant of the virus. That is coupled with the recent appearance of COVID delta pediatric ICUs across the country. During the 1918 influenza pandemic and successive polio and measles epidemics, responsible Americans at least had the responsibility and common decency to look out for their own and other Americans’ children, including the unborn, by obeying public health advisories. That is not the case today with the large population of malcontents who care more about their guns, private golf courses, and pick-up trucks than the children and pregnant moms here in America and abroad. Because of the incompetent decisions made by Trump and his cohorts the United States remains the world’s largest super-spreader nation, proving that being “number” one is not always welcomed.
As far as inoculation mandates are concerned, it should be kept in mind that General George Washington, who contracted smallpox when he was 19, recovering from the disease in Barbados, understood the importance of having immunity to a virus that left him physically scarred for life. Upon taking command of the Continental Army in 1775, Washington was aware that smallpox, against which he already possessed a natural immunity from his previous infection, was spreading through his ranks. Washington required any member of his force who contracted the virus be quarantined in a special hospital located outside of Boston. Washington stated that his command must “continue the utmost Vigilance against this most dangerous enemy.” He was referring to the virus, not the British. Washington required that all new recruits be inoculated against the disease.
In March 1777, Washington issued the following order to his command: “You are hereby required immediately to send me an exact return of your regiment, and to send all your recruits, who have had the small pox to join the Army. Those, who have not, are to be sent to Philadelphia, and put under the direction of the commanding officer there, who will have them inoculated.” No one refused Washington’s order because of “individual freedom.” That was what Washington’s army was fighting to achieve from the British. Washington was fully justified in his mandatory inoculation order. Smallpox claimed more lives than did the war of independence.
Inoculations against smallpox were administered by a process known as variolation. An incision was made on the skin and something infected with smallpox, usually a piece of cloth, was rubbed into the skin tissue. The recipient would come down with a mild case of smallpox, but it would not be life threatening. Washington even required his wife, Martha Washington, to be inoculated by variolation prior to visiting him at his encampment.
Washington would live long enough to see a vaccine developed against smallpox. In 1757, an 8-year-old British lad was inoculated by variolation in Gloucester, England. The boy, Edward Jenner, would develop a smallpox vaccine from cowpox pustules in 1796, a year before Washington’s death.
Another Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, bemoaned not having his four-year old son inoculated against smallpox. He later wrote:
“In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the smallpox taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of the parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”
As president, Thomas Jefferson, who was known for his opposition to unwarranted interference from the government, nevertheless, made Jenner’s smallpox vaccine available to everyone in the nation free of charge. Jefferson also supported compulsory vaccinations of all Americans.
Another founder of our country, James Madison, established in 1813 during his presidency the United States Vaccine Agency. Madison signed into law “An Act to Encourage Vaccination.” The U.S. Post Office was mandated to mail to Americans free vaccines. And all of today’s naysayers and conspiratorial dunderheads think they know everything about the “dangers” of vaccines. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and fake doctors selling placebos, miracle elixirs and books do not know more about virus inoculations than did Washington, Franklin, or Madison, period, end of story!
If the informed opinions of our Founders are not enough to convince people of the efficacy of inoculations, maybe the law of the land suffices. On February 20, 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of mandatory smallpox vaccination programs in Jacobson v Massachusetts. Subsequently, in 1922, the Supreme Court, in Zucht v. King ruled that schools and school systems could refuse admission to students who were unvaccinated. The Jacobson decision continues to be stare decisis when it comes to public health mandates like vaccines.
The government should expect cooperation from its citizens during national emergencies, including pandemics. During the early 1980s, I was responsible for ensuring that global Navy activities subject to regulations within our command were up-to-date on continuity of operations and continuity of government plans for various emergency situations. Of course, the highest priority scenario was that of a nuclear war. But the emergencies also included earthquakes, crippling blizzards, hurricanes or cyclones, terrorist attacks, and, yes, epidemics or pandemics.
I have little time or patience for those who, because of their pet peeves concerning vaccines and modern medicine, would cripple large sectors of the nation’s economy, military readiness, and government decision-making capability. That goes for incompetently dangerous Republican governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas, Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, and others, as well as moronic members of Congress like Senators Ron Johnson and Rand Paul and Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, high school dropout Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, and others within the “kook caucus.”
When important decisions and plans were made by our Navy command concerning evacuations of key personnel and safeguarding important activities and equipment, we did not seek the advice of that time period’s version of today’s Internet surfers. Our advice came from actual experts in the fields of disaster and contingency planning, risk assessment, computer science, telecommunications and electronic engineering, meteorology, nuclear weapons effects, seismology, public health, physical security, and other disciplines.
During World War II, the government expected citizens to adhere to nightly blackout regulations issued by the Office of Civilian Defense. During the Cold War, motorists were required to pull their vehicles off to the shoulders of major highways during periodic civil defense drills—the intention being to clear the road for military and other emergency vehicles. School teachers were responsible for their students conducting ‘duck and cover” nuclear attack drills. Public health authorities expected citizens to, at the very least, have their children inoculated against various diseases as a prerequisite for school attendance. That generation, which survived the Great Depression and World War II, understood that with citizenship came responsibility. That ethic has been lost on large sectors of today’s citizenry. They should do something their parents or guardians likely never told them: grow up!
In the meantime, I will stick with Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison, not with Trump, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Taylor Greene, Gohmert, or Gaetz. Whose side you are on says more about you than me.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and nationally-distributed columnist. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).