Archived Opinion

Blaming unvaccinated is somewhat misplaced

To the Editor:

In the Sept. 1 opinion piece titled, “Maskless, unvaccinated bear a responsibility,” Norman Hoffman states that the unvaccinated “... are accountable for the continuation of the pandemic and its restrictions ... they are the reason I now still need to protect myself from them by wearing a mask.” I agree that the maskless and unvaccinated bear a responsibility for the continuation of the pandemic, but I must disagree that they are “the reason” that Norman (and others who care) must continue to wear masks.

To me, one of the saddest things to emerge from this pandemic is the divisions that have formed: first the masked vs. the unmasked, and now the vaccinated vs. the unvaccinated. It is simpler to claim a side, believe your side is right, and then allow blame, resentment and disgust to build against the other side, than to look at all of the nuances of the situation, of which there are many — too many to expound upon in one letter to the editor. 

As an as-yet-unvaccinated person who respected the original mask mandate, who has taken up the mask once again, and who has done my part to socially distance throughout the pandemic, I am dismayed by being lumped in with all of the other unvaccinated individuals, as many of the people on “Team Vaccinated” are now doing. 

More importantly, I am deeply disappointed in the CDC for lifting the mask mandate for the vaccinated in mid-May, foolishly gambling that this would encourage the as-yet-unvaccinated to get vaccinated, and instead inspiring almost everyone to take off their masks and party like the pandemic was over, even while the Delta variant was raging in India, soon to arrive here (if it hadn’t already). 

In late July, the CDC changed its guidelines to recommending that vaccinated people also wear masks inside again. A study showed that the vaccinated and unvaccinated were carrying the same amount of Delta in their noses, meaning that the unmasked, undistanced and vaccinated were spreading the Delta variant as much as the unmasked, undistanced and unvaccinated. But hardly anyone started wearing masks again, and the focus of the CDC and the vaccinated was instead on getting more people vaccinated, rather than on everyone masking up and distancing again. If the mask mandate had not been prematurely lifted, we might not be in the surge that we are in now.

But even if everyone in the U.S. had continued wearing masks and distancing as much as possible, and even if everyone in the U.S. who is eligible for the vaccine had gone through with it by now, there is still the issue that the world is a majority of poorer countries who have had little to no access to the vaccine, and seemingly will remain without enough access for far too long. This global pandemic points to much greater social issues than the carelessness of the unvaccinated who refuse to wear a mask, and the narrow-mindedness of the unmasked vaccinated who think they are not also spreading the virus. We as one of the wealthy nations of the world, who are able to secure enough vaccine doses for all of our people, and even booster shots coming soon, bear a responsibility for the spread of the virus among those who have little to no access due to the inappropriate distribution of wealth among nations — a result of hundreds of years of exploitation by the now monetarily rich nations of the world over the resource-rich but monetarily poor nations. To reduce the cause of the continuation of the pandemic to the behaviors of the unmasked and unvaccinated is short-sighted indeed.  

Rachel Unger

Bryson City 

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