COMMENTARY: Who has your ear?

by Dec 4, 2020OPINIONS





There is no lack of advice and “expert” direction when it comes to COVID-19. Many of us are on information overload with aily pounding from the experts and those who believe they are experts. Our social media page gets bombarded when any news gets reported about the pandemic. Many of those are giving their opinion about anything ranging from the science of COVID-19, its reason and remedy, to conjecture about political influence in the reporting of efficacy, treatment options, and even the reality of the virus itself. 

National politics has played no small role in the confusion we have, even on the Qualla Boundary, about the safety and effectiveness of the soon arriving vaccines. Like most of the issues of governance in the past four years, there has been a deep divide between the holders of two political ideologies. And, there are passionate influencers on both sides. 

Specifically, regarding the vaccine, pundits on one side were alleging political motivations for speedy development and execution of vaccines. They also advocated that they would be suspicious of any vaccine produced and offered by the current administration. Up to and until the national presidential election, the prevailing message from those in opposition to the current administration, was to also be in opposition to the vaccine. Now, post-election, the narrative has changed. Those in opposition of the current national administration are now in favor of widespread acceptance of the vaccines. 

The science and medical expert opinions have not waivered. They were working for a cure, regardless of the politics. They proved their dedication to healing by diligently working toward a safe resolution and maintained their integrity while others tried to drag them into the political fray. 

Because of political ideologies, we are going to have a challenge as we move forward with wide availability of a vaccine. Medical officials are going to rollout a very well-considered plan to provide access to the vaccine to all who choose to take it. 

A One Feather straw poll revealed that, at least in the population of respondents, roughly a third will take the vaccine as soon as it is available to them, a third will take the vaccine after a period of wait time (some months) to see how it impacts those who immediately take it, and then a third of the respondents said they do not plan to take it at all.

Most health organizations are recommending that everyone take the vaccine. Not because of political expediency, but in the interest of public health. There are certainly other considerations. Many people have lost their livelihoods because of COVID-19. The economies of the nation, state, and tribe have been severely negatively impacted by the disease. Lawful mandates in the state of emergency have restricted access, shopping, and business, resulting in business closures, some permanently. 

The experts, not your next-door neighbor, not your distant cousin with a social media page, not the community gossip, who we have looked to for our personal and public health, have advised us that it is our best interest, personally and communally, to take the vaccine when it is offered. The faster our immunity is established, the quicker we get back to a semblance of “normalcy”. 

We all are tired and aggravated with mandates. Our governmental and medical community leaders are tired and aggravated at having to issue them. We have allowed a segment of our population to twist this health crisis into a political football. We desperately need to step back from those who are encouraging us to ignore the recommendations of our medical professionals. Many of them will do so because of leftover political animosity, fear, hate, and any other emotional reaction. 

So, who do you listen to? Do you ask a buddy whether you should get a stress test for your heart? Do you ask your cousin whether you should do this or that medically if you have a chronic illness? For that matter, do you ask the media if you should go get regular health check-ups, dental maintenance, eye care, or even mental health assistance? Maybe you do. Most of us do not. 

We use our common sense (old folks used to call it “horse sense”) and we ask those who have been educated and experienced to take care of those things. Over the years, they have taken an oath; an oath that is 18 centuries old, that, in Latin, reads “primum non nocere” or “first do no harm”. 

In the U.S., that oath has evolved into the American Medical Association Code of Ethics which is now more than 170 years old. Each document designed to hold doctors accountable for healing and not harming those they treat. Using your horse sense, you look at the motivations of those giving you medical advice and whether that advice is in line with time tested ways of combatting disease. 

Using your horse sense means weighing the options. Letting this virus run its course could mean months and possibly years of extreme suffering and death. Mitigating and eliminating the virus as quickly as possible means less suffering. Less death. 

And so, when my elderly uncle or my young niece asks me if I did everything that I could do to stop them from getting infected, I will not only have to listen to that question, I have to answer it. I will be able to say that I practiced those preventive measures that the medical community advised me to take. I wash my hands, I wear a mask, and I keep my distance. And, when the time comes, I will participate in the vaccine. Not because I am a sheep, but because I want to do the right thing for my uncle, niece, and my community. So, I guess in addition to listening to the medical community, you have to listen to what your heart is telling you.