During a visit to a Wisconsin tavern, a masked Jim Smart noticed that the bartender was not wearing a mask. He asked her if she was vaccinated.
“She said no, ‘I don’t believe in science.’ I said, ‘What about the people in the kitchen?’ She went to ask and came back and said, ‘They don’t want to tell you,’ “Smart said.” I said, live this and I’m gone. “
Smart, a restaurateur who has lost friends and business to COVID-19, has “lacked patience” with people who refuse to be vaccinated.
“I am all for personal rights, but the holy smokes,” he said. “It’s my life I’m trying to protect. It’s my right not to get sick that concerns me.”
The coronavirus has brought unprecedented changes to our lives. Now that is changing where some of us shop, dine, and seek entertainment. It also puts a strain on loyalty to the people we see for personal, medical, and financial care.
A small but noisy group of Minnesotans have started fleeing stores, offices, restaurants and service providers where employees are not vaccinated, or refuse to disclose their immunization status. They’re canceling appointments with unvaccinated hairdressers, chiropractors, massage therapists, doulas and financial planners, saying they won’t return until their supplier takes the photo.
It is a newly energized community approach designed to put pressure on those who took a long time to adopt Pfizer, Moderna or J&J.
“People will change their behavior if they see that they are hurting themselves,” said Catherine Carey of St Paul.
Handicapped by arthritis and a weakened immune system, Carey is sure the corona virus could kill her. During the shutdown, this fear kept her confined to the house. She also postponed dental treatment for two sensitive molars. Once vaccinated, she made an appointment at her dental clinic, but by the time she was able to enter, COVID-19 was on the rise again.
After she “couldn’t get a clear answer” as to whether the dentist, hygienist and office staff were vaccinated, she canceled her appointment. “I will live with my toothache,” she said.
Polls show that 75% of eligible Americans are fully or partially vaccinated. And the pressure to get vaccinated is increasing from the federal government and private companies.
“We have to treat this as a battle. We are no longer in the state of pretty please,” said Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary for homeland security and chair of the homeland security program at the Kennedy School of Harvard Government. “The unvaccinated are free to believe whatever they want, but it will have consequences for the vaccinated to move on.”
Analysts have identified two groups of unvaccinated Americans: the hostile vaccines and the hesitant vaccines. Those who are hostile have strong anti-vaccine beliefs and are unlikely to be swayed. The hesitant are more convincing, said Kayyem, who might need a boost.
“People who are vaccinated develop their private or personal mandates of what they are going to put up with in their own lives,” she said. “The unvaccinated have had the veto for too long and now the burden is shifting. The time is up.”
HIT THE WALL
Ed Magarian has completed 63 marathons, traveling to participate in events across the country, Europe and Asia.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Minneapolis lawyer has registered for eight events which were later dropped.
“It was so frustrating to see things improve, the number of vaccinations go up, and then we hit a brick wall,” he said. “Before the vaccine, we couldn’t solve the problem. Now we have the silver bullet. People just have to take advantage of it.”
Magarian’s son is getting married in January, after the nuptials were postponed for a year due to the pandemic. The couple will ask guests to get vaccinated, which is not an uncommon practice among engaged couples.
In fact, wedding websites suggest that couples can use the wording on their invitations to politely ask guests to upload their vaccination cards. Other suggestions include the offer to “celebrate with you at another time” if the guests are unable or unwilling to prove their status.
“In big and small ways, we can’t get back to normal because people refuse to take an FDA-approved vaccine,” Magarian said. “Their choices and reluctance to do their part to protect public health affects me.”
Across the country, there have been prizes, cash bonuses, and passionate celebrity calls to reduce the number of the unvaccinated. In Minnesota, free fishing licenses, state fair tickets, and entry passes to the Minnesota Zoo were enough to grease some skates; nearly 80,000 Minnesotans were willing to roll up their sleeves in exchange for $ 100.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 40% of unvaccinated people in the ‘wait and see’ category would change their position if their status prevented them from enjoying privileges and activities like getting on a plane.
Harvard’s Kayyem thinks that’s proof that it doesn’t take much to entice or even coerce some people.
“When their employer tells them they need to get the vaccine, some will stop but more of them will,” she said. “It’s time to adopt a new tactic to move the unvaccinated.”
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