Vax Virtue: Vaccination Is The Latest Status Symbol


The U.S. is approaching 50% of adults fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the total number of fully vaccinated now topping the 100 million mark. And you probably feel like you've seen or heard from each one of those 100 million. From social media posts, to t-shirts, to jewelry, bragging about getting the COVID vaccine seems to be the latest vehicle for virtue signaling.

As we reach what some are calling the Vaccine Wall--the point where vaccine demand plateaus--the pressure is growing on the unvaccinated. Shaming tactics are already at work, with talk of vaccine passports for travel or other activities, to casting anyone remotely skeptical or questioning of the COVID vaccine as an anti-vaxxer or conspiracy theorist. Left-wing "The View" co-host Sunny Hostin even called for those who don't get vaccinated to be shunned and banned from certain aspects of public life.

Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a surgeon in private practice and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, says vaccine hesitancy is normal and expected. "We seem to be down to a core number of roughly 20 percent of people who are just vaccine hesitant," he says. "Different people have different reasons, and I think it's always good to respect people's skepticism, I think skepticism is a healthy thing."

Nevertheless, Dr. Singer believes there is overwhelming evidence the vaccines are safe and effective, and people should get them. But he feels the best way to encourage that is not through shaming and pressure, but through removing restrictions and returning to normalcy.

To that end, Dr. Singer believes President Biden is undermining the vaccination effort with his own behavior. He cites last week's speech to Congress, in which Biden addressed a mostly empty chamber of mask-wearing lawmakers, even though they are all vaccinated. "It was like bizarro world, it's the exact opposite of what should happen," says Singer. "He's telling us to get vaccinated, and a vaccine-hesitant person looks at that and says why should I get vaccinated if I have to behave this way?"

Another way the president can better promote the vaccine is to stop wearing a mask outdoors. "How can people be encouraged to be vaccinated when they see that? It makes them wonder if they're being told the truth," says Singer. "If it's so safe to get vaccinated that you can go outside without a mask, then how come you're wearing a mask, Mr. President?"