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Opinion: On the right side of soap and vaccines

It can sometimes feel like this town is overrun with folks who doubt science.
There are real-world consequences to these groups that spread hesitancy, as the U.S. is seeing, says columnist Jennifer Thuncher.

Standing in line outside Brennan Park recently for my COVID-19 jab, I felt proud of my fellow Squamish Gen Xers lining up with me.

Throw in the haze of pot smoke, and it could have been a lineup for concert tickets, circa 1985.

Us Gen Xers are all folks who have survived fear of nuclear war, mosh (mash) pits, acid wash jeans, dousing ourselves in hairspray and baking in the sun basted in baby oil —  and now we want to protect ourselves, our neighbours and families from coronavirus.

It is common knowledge that a small but vocal group in town is planning a “Freedom” rally this month.

Media don’t typically write about protests before they happen, but you all know what event I am talking about.

It can sometimes feel like this town is overrun with folks who doubt science.

But looking at that line stretching before me and behind waiting for the AstraZeneca shot put things in perspective.

Most folks in Squamish are rational.

They may not like the public health orders, but they follow them and trust the vast majority of scientists and medical professionals who have gone to school for this stuff.

But there are real-world consequences to these groups that spread hesitancy, as the U.S. is seeing.

New York Times reporters recently talked to many disease experts and found that though more than half of the country is now vaccinated with at least one shot, the U.S. may not reach herd immunity for decades due in part to the about 30% of Americans who aren’t getting the shot.

As folks in other countries, like in India, desperately race for the jab, this hesitancy is annoying.

It means the virus will linger in pockets for many years to come.

We don’t want Squamish to be one of the Canadian pockets, do we?

For those lining up, getting vaccinated, and following COVID-19 protocols for the greater good, you are on the right side of history.

Having people doubt science isn’t new.

Back in the 1800s, Dr.  Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that more women were dying in childbirth when they were delivered by doctors who didn’t wash their hands between patients.

It took a while for this idea of hand washing to catch on, believe it or not.

Can you hear the chants now? “Freedom from soap!  Don’t trust Big Soap! Be free! Be brave — dirt not soap!”

Two things can be true. Soap companies gained from increased hand washing needs, and it was the right thing to do.

Companies that make vaccines make money from creating vaccines — AND the vaccines work.

Those anti-science folks planning a super-spreader event in Squamish think they know better than the overwhelming majority of scientists, researchers, public health officials, and so on.

What is frustrating is that these contrarians are passionate, motivated, and organized.

imagine what they could accomplish if they put their efforts into fighting the myriad of other social ills that plague marginalized groups.

There are plenty of folks who remain oppressed.

Those who have to put on a mask, keep their germs to themselves and, if able and eligible, roll up their sleeves for a vaccine during a global pandemic aren’t among them.