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Opinion

What the Devil won't tell you

Resistance to Pima County's COVID shot policy melts, because mandates work

So much for the last stand of Spartans at the hot gates of Thermopylae. 

Pima County's corrections officers have given up the ghost on the fight for their right to be disease vectors and have — nearly to the man and woman — complied with the county's vaccination mandate. Nearly 2,100 employees who work with residents who are "vulnerable" to COVID-19 are covered by the requirement to get their shots or lose their jobs, but the jail guards were the biggest holdouts.

Sheriff Chris Nanos says he got tough on the vaccines and that made him unpopular. He was cool with it. Apparently, jail guards didn't believe the government should have the power to punish people for deciding on their own which drugs go into their bodies. Yeah. Wait for it.

Of the 354 corrections officers working at Pima County's detention centers, 22 now face termination. As of last week, the number within the Sheriff's Department was 122. Overall, just 51 employees of that 2,100 now face termination. The rest have complied and gotten their shots. 

In all, 97.6 percent of county government employees who work with those at high risk have chosen to get the vaccine. 

Back in early December, 450 employees were facing dismissal because they worked with vulnerable populations but were holding out against being vaccinated against COVID-19

That defiance evaporated.

I attribute this to the toe-tapping spouse, sitting there with their arms crossed staring at the holdouts with insistent eyes. "Don't you even think about quitting. 'MAGA, MAGA, MAGA' don't pay the rent and it don't feed your baby."

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Yes, vaccine mandates work. Wishing, hoping, scolding, shaming, explaining and pretty-pleasing does not. 

So as county leaders spent a part of the meeting ruminating over Supervisor Rex Scott's salient point that we are just going to have to live with a quarter of Pima County residents not getting vaccinated,  the county workforce has nicely gotten their shots.

This doesn't make them pliant. It doesn't mean they are "omegas" and failed "alphas." Nor does it make them Sheeple. It means they are fulfilling a major part of their fundamental job descriptions: To serve the public.

The Spartans didn't look at King Leonidas and say "Screw the Persians! We do what we want!" No. They stood firm and sacrificed their lives for people of Greece. The Pima County holdouts got a vaccine to protect the community they worked with and more than that — protected themselves.

Protecting ourselves actually protects the community because it means that we don't end up in the hospital taking up ICU space, suffering and dying in ways that were completely avoidable. We just have to let the miracles of science save us.

The Omicron variant of coronavirus is so crazy contagious that it will even spread among the vaccinated. But it'll do that at much lower rates. That kind of protection is just one of the vaccine's tricks. The other is that it boosts antibodies to fight off the virus in ways that don't get us sick. And thus people who are exposed and get infected will get less ill. Then they'll recover more quickly and spread the virus to fewer people than those who have not gotten their shots.

If the entire country were at 97.6 percent vaccinated we would probably have this virus on lockdown, but 75 percent isn't going to do it. We have measles on largely beaten. Measles vaccination rates are at 91 percent and that virus hasn't spiked in decades.

The original coronavirus carried an R(0) number of 2.5. That (pretty much) means that every infected person gives the illness to 2.5 others. In absolute terms that means if person A infects 2.5 people and they infect 2.5 people, after five series of infections 97 people are sick. The Omicron variant may have an R (0) of 10. If so after just five cycles (which can happen in mere days), 100,000 people are infected. 

There are all sorts of measures that can and have been taken to knock this number way down -- vaccines for one. But that number shows just Omicron would spread if we did nothing. And, even if Omicron turns out to be half as lethal as the original strain, it can still kill a lot more people by infecting a lot more people.

So, of course there are vaccine mandates among governments dong the minimum to serve the public and of course, Pima County is requiring workers to get their shots.

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Shots aren't "Fauci ouchies," as one crumbling-toast-for-brains Colorado congresswoman derided them. They are ramparts in the defense against hordes of viruses at the city gates. Mandating vaccines is only different from drafting people into the defense of the community in that they require a whole hell of a lot less than a draft.

However, enough state legislatures are treating Pfizer and Moderna shots as optional. They're asking the people to give nothing but aid and comfort to a microscopic yet lethal enemy.  Remember, it's just this particular microscopic enemy that so many refuse to fight. 

I don't remember freedom-loving fighters of the biosecurity state standing in my corner when I had to drive to my original candy-coated pediatrician to get my shots to enroll at the University of Arizona. I thought it was a hassle and not another Holocaust.

Jenny McCarthy and other "anti-vaxers" (then a variety of kook found largely on the political Left) notwithstanding, we got the shots and moved on with our lives. 

What the county has required was not extraordinary. Compliance, to say nothing of eager participation, should have been expected.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years, and as a communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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Vaccination is the least we can do to fight coronavirus. Mandating shots works. Tucson, Arizona and the U.S. remain awash in the virus because those requirements aren't universal.

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