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Listen to the voices from the grave: Get vaccinated now

Death has a way of ending COVID-19 denial.

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Miami Beach, Florida on Aug. 4.
AP Photos

Dick Farrel, a right-wing radio talker in Florida, had nothing but bad things to say about Dr. Anthony Fauci and COVID-19 vaccines.

Fauci, he said, was “a lying freak.” COVID-19 was a “scamdemic.” And he said he would never get vaccinated.

“Why take a vax promoted by people who lied 2u all along about masks?” he asked on Facebook.

Then Farrel caught the bug, found himself fighting for his life and changed his tune.

“Get it!” he texted to a friend who was hesitant to get the vaccine. “I wish I had gotten it!”

And then, on Aug. 4, died.

Done in by the “scamdemic.”

The news is full of reports this summer about people like Farrel who mocked public health experts and science, masks and vaccines, and were rewarded with death from COVID-19. They often hung in there just long enough to regret their foolishness.

Nobody should take satisfaction in this. Every death from COVID is a tragic death, regardless of the circumstances. But we’ve been thinking long and hard of late about what it will take to persuade the seemingly inconvincible to get the vaccine, and we’re pretty sure it won’t be another lecture by Fauci or President Joe Biden or the World Health Organization or this editorial page.

Those still in need of convincing don’t much listen to any of the above.

It will take leadership from the political right itself, which remains in short supply. And it might help as well to call attention to all the anti-vaxxers, especially the militant ones like Farrel, who have been dropping all around us. Death has a way of ending denial.

Promoted ‘mask burning’

In the same week Farrel died of COVID, a prominent Texas Republican who ridiculed the vaccines died of the virus.

H. Scott Apley, a member of the Dickinson City Council and Texas Republican Executive Committee, compared mask mandates to Nazism and encouraged his followers on social media to attend a “mask burning” at a bar.

Five days before his death, Apley posted online this mocking assessment of the vaccines: “In 6 months, we’ve gone from the vax ending the pandemic, to you can still get Covid even if vaxxed, to you can pass Covid onto others even if vaxxed, to you can still die of Covid even if vaxxed, to the unvaxxed are killing the vaxxed.”

That’s a lot of hooey, of course, and it’s unfortunate for Apley that he apparently believed it. The various vaccines remain powerful defenses against COVID-19 and its known variants. The vast majority of people who have been vaccinated don’t become infected, and those who do typically suffer minor symptoms, don’t need to be hospitalized and — best of all — don’t die.

Died in misery

A particular heartbreaking case is that of Michael Freedy, a 39-year-old father of two from Las Vegas who didn’t push the anti-vaxx nonsense. He just made the mistake of listening to those who do. Worried about the vaccine’s side effects, which are in fact negligible and temporary, he had decided to put off getting the shot for a year.

Freedy caught COVID-19 while on vacation in San Diego in mid-July. Two weeks later, on July 29, he died. But not before going through all kinds of misery involving tubes, lung machines and defibrillator paddles.

“When you’re a spectator in it, there’s no trying to slide out the door,” his fiance, Jessica DuPreez, told the Washington Post. “You just have to stay in the back of the room and out of the way.”

In a text to DuPreez early in his illness, Freedy had this to say: “I should have gotten the damn vaccine.”

A message from morgues

There are many more such cases, if only the tens of millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated would take heed. The message comes from folks like themselves, vaccine skeptics, from hospital beds and morgues.

Infection rates are climbing again, largely among the unvaccinated, and people are dying again. Daily caseloads have increased tenfold nationwide since late June, as the Delta variant of the virus sweeps the country, and death reports have doubled.

Southern states, many with vaccination rates well below the national average, have seen the most explosive case growth, reports the New York Times. Mississippi, which was adding fewer than 200 cases a day at the start of July, is now averaging more than 2,000 infections daily.

Even as radio talkers call mandatory masks “face diapers.” Even as they call vaccine passports an assault on their liberties. Even as they mock door-to-door vaccination campaigns.

We urge Americans who have yet to get vaccinated to listen instead to the voices from the grave.

On May 1, Curt Carpenter, an unvaccinated young man from Alabama, died from COVID-19. He succumbed after a two-month fight.

His mother says she’ll never forget his last words: “This is not a hoax. This is real.”

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