Sunday, August 1, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1781 - A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

  "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” This quote is attributed to Alexander Pope. The full statement from his 1709 An Essay On Criticism, is as follows: “A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain. And drinking largely sobers us again” I was reminded of this saying when I read several striking facts concerning vaccinations for COVID-19. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  Last week I read a survey concerning COVID-19 vaccination and health care workers. A startling fact struck me in the heart of my being. Physicians were vaccinated at a 96 percent rate with nearly half of the remaining four percent intending to get vaccinated. Nurses had a dramatically lower rate of vaccination hovering in the 60 percent range. Other health workers had an even lower rate, in the 40 percent range. 

  I was struck by the fact that the medical doctors (physicians) were nearly 100 percent vaccinated. Presumably doctors have the most medical knowledge of health care personnel. Those with the next most medical knowledge (nurses) were about three-fifths vaccinated. Those further down the employment - and presumably knowledge - totem pole were vaccinated at a two-fifths rate. The trend is stark: the more formal education in medicine, the more likely to be vaccinated. The less formal education in medicine, the less likely to be vaccinated. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  Then I read some additional surveys concerning health care workers. The status of the vaccinated was revealing: men at 58 percent; women at 50 percent; Whites at 57 percent; Hispanics at 44 percent; and Blacks at 39 percent. The higher the status in society and presumably access to greater medical knowledge, the more likely to be vaccinated. The lower the status, the less likely to be vaccinated. Let’s look further at the status of health care workers. Hospital workers were at 66 percent; outpatient clinic workers were at 64 percent; workers in doctors’ offices were at 52 percent; nursing home workers were at 50 percent; and workers in patients’ homes were at 26 percent. The less status and presumably less knowledge, the more likely they were to not be vaccinated.

  I often hear persons stating very strong opinions about things in which I am deeply involved. When I gently inquire(d) as to the reasons for such strong opinions, they used to say, “I read it in the newspapers.” Sometimes they would say, “I heard it on the radio.” Then, “I saw it on television.” Now, they say, “I saw it on Facebook” (or other social media). I gave up trying to explain the severe limitations of the media and especially social media. These are sources of little knowledge. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  I have a good friend of more than 50 years. He is a nurse. He has not been vaccinated. He refuses to be vaccinated. I listened carefully to his reasoning, but I could not hear the wisdom in his position. He wanted me to accept his truth on the basis of his nursing background, and therefore, greater knowledge. I could not see this greater knowledge. In fact, I saw little knowledge.

  Let’s explore the specific concerns of my nurse friend. He said that the vaccine was developed too quickly. I told him that I had read in detail that scientists had been working on COVID vaccinations since COVID-4. The 4 in COVID-4 was for the year 2004. That’s more than sixteen years. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  Another thing my friend said involved the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. He reminded me that White people used Black people as guinea pigs in that situation. I agreed, but I tried to tell him that the Tuskegee Study was not about a new treatment or new medicine but about refusing to give Black men medicine that was already available. And that is an ongoing reality every day because studies consistently show that medical providers give Black people less medicine than they give White people. I reminded him that the U.S. government had put hundreds of billions of dollars into developing and distributing this vaccine. I told him that this vaccine was developed for White people, white businesses, white society, not Black people. My words fell on deaf ears. 

  My friend said that we do not know all the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. I agreed. However, I asked him, “Do we know all the long-term effects of getting COVID-19?” The answer is certainly an emphatic “No!” On the other hand, we do know the immediate effects of COVID-19 in the USA: illness for tens of millions; hospitalizations for millions; death for hundreds of thousands; long-hauler effects for unknown legions; dramatic reductions in overall life expectancy; great adverse economic impacts; massive disruption of society, etc. But I did not move my friend, for in his mind, he had his knowledge. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  Alabama has the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated COVID-19 populations in the United States of America. It has recently fallen behind Mississippi. The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 34 percent of persons over 12 years are fully vaccinated.. Mississippi is the next lowest with 40 percent. The southern area of the USA has the lowest percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations. But we in the South are so sure of our positions.

  Alabama and Mississippi are among the least educated states in the United States of America. The Global Partnership for Education says education is the best way for people to decrease unemployment and increase earning ability. It also says that education not only helps individuals but also helps nations and states as a whole by boosting economic growth, decreasing poverty, and promoting equality and peace. Now there appears to be a correlation between COVID-19 vaccination and education. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  The COVID virus keeps changing. Each change appears to be for the worse. The COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading so much faster. New variants of the virus may be even more destructive. The longer we wait, the more deadly the virus becomes. We must vaccinate now.

EPILOGUE – Knowledge is power. Sometimes it’s a power that moves us to live. Sometimes it’s a power that moves us to die. Our challenge is to obtain enough knowledge power to be moved to live. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represented District 23 in the Alabama Senate from 1983 to 2018.

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