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Keep up the fight against anti-vaccine nonsense

Whether twisted facts or outright falsehoods, vaccine misinformation has already done enough damage among the skeptical.

Syringes with doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are shown next to vaccination cards.
Syringes with doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are shown next to vaccination cards.
Ted S. Warrren/AP Photos

On Monday, new proof-of-vaccination requirements for patrons of indoor dining, fitness and certain entertainment venues in Chicago and Cook County went into effect — and let’s hope the new mandate pushes more of the unvaccinated to get their shots and boosters.

It’s the best way to protect everyone as our state’s positivity rate — the measure of how quickly COVID-19 is spreading — reaches an alarming 17.9%, double the rate a week ago.

It’s also the best way to take the strain off hospitals and health care workers now being hit with a deluge of largely-unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. One example: Advocate Aurora Health had 1,426 COVID-19 patients in its network of hospitals on Sunday — double the number 30 days ago — and the patient count rose to 1,491 on Monday.

Among these patients, 92% were unvaccinated, including those had only received one dose or were due for a booster. “The situation is growing more challenging by the day,” said Mary Beth Kingston, Advocate Aurora’s chief nursing officer.

Clearly, this is the time to do everything possible to encourage holdouts to finally get their shot.

This is no time for vaccine misinformation — either twisted facts or outright falsehoods — that has already done enough damage among the skeptical. Yet on Saturday, there was Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara in a YouTube video, announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19 and then spouting dangerously inaccurate anti-vaccine nonsense.

“This vaccine is not a vaccine. It is a COVID treatment at best,” said Catanzara. “Far too many people who are vaccinated are getting the virus for it to be called a vaccine. That needs to stop.”

As one Northwestern University doctor bluntly said, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

But really, Catanzara’s nonsense is beside the point. His uninformed pronouncements are just one example of the rampant misinformation that continues to fuel this pandemic even though safe and highly effective vaccines are free and widely available.

Some of the intransigent are now doubling down on their refusal: Among unvaccinated adults, only 12% said the news of the Omicron variant made them more likely to get the shot, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Stubbornness cannot be allowed to prevail. As a nation, we’re racking up 300,000 new infections every day. Hospitalizations — and it’s worth repeating, over and over, that hospitalizations are overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated — are rising too.

If proof-of-vaccination mandates can help reverse that trend, bring them on.

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