I read the letter to the editor written by Mr. Charles Markarian and published in your March 19-25 issue with mounting distress. As Americans continue to reckon with the catastrophic impact of COVID-19, I find it deeply irresponsible to permit a vaccine skeptic to air a series of claims that range from misleading to simply inaccurate without any accompanying context or fact checking.
This is nothing less than an abandonment of the public trust inherent in publishing a community newspaper.
Mr. Markarian trots out the usual basket of misleading statistics, irrelevancies (exactly what bearing does Dr. Fauci’s salary have on vaccine efficacy?) and insinuations of conspiracy to support his case for ignoring prudent public health guidelines.
Mr. Markarian makes a number of clearly and demonstrably inaccurate statements. He claims that the CDC has reported that mask wearing is ineffective. This is nonsense. Mr. Markarian quotes directly from a story that appeared in One America News, a fringe right-wing news outlet. The story in question has been widely disputed both by the CDC and various medical authorities. OAN (as well as several right-wing commentators) appear to have either misunderstood the report or more likely deliberately misreported. The study in fact found that mask wearing had a substantial impact in reducing growth and death rates from COVID-19.
(Note: it took me all of two minutes to find this detailed fact check here: https://www.factcheck.org/2021/03/scicheck-posts-distort-cdc-study-supporting-masks-mandates-to-reduce-covid-19/)
Mr. Markarian states twice in his LTE that the three approved COVID vaccines include “death” as a side effect. Where is his support for this outrageous claim? There is no evidence whatsoever of widespread and substantial side effects to the vaccines. Over 100M shots have been administered in this country to date and recipients do not appear to be dropping dead. How can a responsible newspaper print such an outrageous and utterly unfounded claim? Can Mr. Markarian cite any competent authority to support this (and no, something his uncle posted on Facebook doesn’t count)?
The author also appears not to understand how vaccines work or the processes that sped their development. In order to bring these lifesaving vaccines to market quickly their manufacturers tested not how well the vaccines prevented infection with COVID-19 but rather how well they prevented the onset of serious disease. The effectiveness in preventing serious disease (and of course hospitalization or death) is truly remarkable: 95 percent for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and upwards of 80 percent for the Johnson and Johnson shot. What we still don’t know is how effective the vaccines are at preventing infection in the first place (though studies appear to show that they are more effective in this regard than first thought). That’s why we still need to wear masks and practice social distancing for the time being. These are small sacrifices to make to protect our neighbors, our friends and our family.
Most worryingly Mr. Markarian hints darkly that “they” are trying to force a dangerous vaccine on an unsuspecting public for some malign purpose. Here he appears ready to drag the vilest filth of the conspiracy obsessed far-right internet into the pages of a well regarded community news source. You should be ashamed for permitting this innuendo to go unchallenged.
Sadly many Americans seem unable to make even the smallest sacrifice for the good of their communities. Too many of our fellow countrymen have forgotten that freedom requires work. It requires us to be responsible, to do the right thing even when it may be personally inconvenient. Prior generations of American’s willingly made sacrifices for their country far greater than wearing a mask in ShopRite. Mr. Markarian hasn’t likely given much thought to the paramedics or ER nurses who will care for him at great personal risk if his “God given immune system” doesn’t work as well as he hopes. It saddens me deeply that we have become such a selfish and narcissistic society that people like Mr. Markarian will certainly find many sympathetic fellow travelers among your readership.