When even fear of death is not enough

This video from Vice News shows how deeply some people have become buried in the anti-vaccine propaganda that even almost dying from covid-19 does not persuade them to get the vaccine. Instead they babble about how they have heard about vaccines changing their DNA and that they are not sure whom to believe. It is a frightening display of ignorance masquerading as knowledge.

When VICE News visited UAMS Medical Center, the hospital had 66 COVID-19 patients, more than their last peak of 63 COVID-19 patients, in January 2021. The ICU was over capacity and over 90 percent of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Arkansas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country with only 44.1 percent of the population 12 and up fully immunized, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. As a more contagious Delta variant becomes the predominant variant in Arkansas, the state is entering a new phase in the war against COVID-19.

“The second pandemic is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Dr. Meena told VICE News. “People were more rescuable in the first pandemic.” 

Key differences with the Delta variant, Meena noted, are that 20 percent of patients hospitalized at UAMS Medical Center from COVID-19 are pregnant women and younger people have a higher mortality rate. 

Despite the greater risks associated with contracting the Delta variant, many Arkansans still refuse to get vaccinated. 

“I did not realize that the threat of death is inadequate to make people want to go have vaccines,” Dr. Meena said. The pulmonologist has attempted to convince patients and their families to get vaccinated, but he’s only succeeded about a fifth of the time. “There’s a fair number of people who don’t believe they have COVID and that we’re lying to them,” he said. 

If I was a medical professional overwhelmed by having to treat such large numbers of willfully obtuse people, I do not know if I could not be exasperated and angered by people creating medical emergencies that could have been avoided.


  1. Matt G says

    This question was asked in What’s the Matter with Kansas?: why do people vote against their own economic interests? Here is the “on steroids” version: why do people risk the deaths of themselves and their loved ones to be loyal to their incoherent religious/political ideologies?


    mRNA, as i understand it, inserts into mitochondrial DNA to direct production of the target spike protein. Folks legitimately hear “inserts into DNA.” What percent of people who have been vaxxed could tell you about mitochondrial DNA versus nuclear DNA? The question here is not really ignorance but suspicion. I don’t know how to get past the suspicion, but I doubt making fun of these folks is the path forward.

  3. anat says

    Matt G: Because they are victims of a propaganda campaign by people they have trusted for so long. And those people are cynically using them (and killing them) in order to prevent an economic recovery under a Democratic president, in hope that their side wins the next election. The stakes are high, and thus the effort is great.

  4. raven says

    “There’s a fair number of people who don’t believe they have COVID and that we’re lying to them,” he said.

    This is very common.
    Quite a few of the patients dying in the hospitals are Covid-19 virus deniers. They almost never figure it out.

    Old post
    These patients can be hard to treat.
    They come in sick with a fever, having trouble breathing, and barely able to move while knowing that the Covid-19 virus doesn’t exist.
    The health care workers around them are all suited up in full Personal Protective Equipment gear.
    When it dawns on them that they might well die, they panic.
    They frequently start screaming at the health care workers, sometimes attack them, and sometimes try to pull off their PPE gear. Because the health care workers are all part of the hoax.

    When they are dying or die, the family shows up.
    They start screaming at the health care workers some more.
    Accusing them of killing the patient because the Covid-19 virus doesn’t exist.
    Security is called.
    They know what to do.
    The family is escorted out of the hospital.

    This has happened thousands of times. It is happening many times today somewhere as another 500 unvaccinated patients (August 17, 2021)…die of the Covid-19 virus.

  5. raven says

    If I was a medical professional overwhelmed by having to treat such large numbers of willfully obtuse people, I do not know if I could not be exasperated and angered by people creating medical emergencies that could have been avoided.

    It’s far worse than that.

    .1. The Covid-19 virus deniers and/or antivaxxers (there is a huge overlap here) often panic when it dawns on them that they are really sick and might well die. They often start screaming at the health care workers and sometimes attack them.

    This isn’t uncommon. 500 almost all not vaccinated patients will die of Covid-19 virus today in the USA. Some of those will start screaming and attack the health care workers.

    .2. The health care workers are definitely being put at risk here as well.
    Around 4,000 of them have caught the virus and died!!!
    These medical personnel are risking their lives every day and sometimes dying because the antivax idiots keep getting sick and ending up in the hospital by the tens of thousands.

  6. OverlappingMagisteria says

    REBECCA WIESS: Not quite. mRNA has nothing to do with mitochondria. The M stands for messenger. Normally, mRNA is created as a sort of “copy” of a section of DNA in the nucleus. Then it travels out of the nucleus to a ribosome where it serves as a sort of instruction for how to build a protein. That’s the messenger part of it.

    With the vaccine, the mRNA makes its way into the cell and the ribosomes in the cell then dutifully read it and create spike proteins. The mRNA dissolves soon after. It is never inserted into any DNA, mitochondrial or otherwise.

    Back when I taught, I used this analogy: The cell is a widget factory. DNA is the master instruction book, held in the main office. mRNA is a photocopy of one of those pages. They get sent out to the factory floor where workers read them and build the widget described. The COVID vaccine is like tossing a bunch of forged photocopied instructions into the factory through the windows.

  7. John Morales says

    It’s not death that worries me.


    People who had recovered from COVID-19, including those no longer reporting symptoms, exhibited significant cognitive deficits versus controls when controlling for age, gender, education level, income, racial-ethnic group, pre-existing medical disorders, tiredness, depression and anxiety. The deficits were of substantial effect size for people who had been hospitalised (N = 192), but also for non-hospitalised cases who had biological confirmation of COVID-19 infection (N = 326). Analysing markers of premorbid intelligence did not support these differences being present prior to infection. Finer grained analysis of performance across sub-tests supported the hypothesis that COVID-19 has a multi-domain impact on human cognition.

    OTOH, Neil Innes -- Idiot Song from Monty Python Live At Drury Lane

  8. steve oberski says

    In the good news department:

    COVID-19 vaccines may trigger superimmunity in people who had SARS long ago


    Former SARS patients who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 appear able to fend off all variants of SARS-CoV-2 in circulation, as well as ones that may soon emerge, a new study suggests. Their formidable antibodies may even protect against coronaviruses in other species that have yet to make the jump into humans—and may hold clues to how to make a so-called pancoronavirus vaccine that could forestall future outbreaks.

    This is all in vitro so far.

  9. garnetstar says

    I think that we’ve reached the evolutionary-model point. There are people who cannot accept the reality of change, and who cannot change to protect themselves/defend themselves against the new predator. Their behavior isn’t motivated by the vaccine being new or changing DNA or whatever they tell themselves and believe. It’s that they are not mentally flexible enough to accomodate such change into their world, and to incorporate changed behavior into their lives.

    So, they will die out. They’re not actually choosing death, they are not able to adapt. It hasn’t been helped by decades of learned inability to accept reality, which our society has enabled them to do.

    I’m certainly not rejoicing in this, but I don’t know if there’s anything that anyone can do about it.

  10. garnetstar says

    As raven @4 & 5 says, many anti-vaxxers are actually unconscious deniers of the reality of COVID. They aren’t, in fact, really motivated by being “against” vaccines. It’s that they cannot accept the reality of this change, that the world has this new predator in it now.

  11. garnetstar says

    The above is one theme in that old paen to white supremacy, the book Gone With The Wind (not the movie). Those who couldn’t adapt to cultural change (i.e., their not being able to live, after the war, as rich, absolute-power, white supremacists who held black people as chattel) were winnowed out.

    And now I think of it, that’s pretty relevant to US society today, too. The winnowing-out isn’t happening as quickly as one wishes, but the white supremacists are definitely feeling threatened with extinction, and so will turn more and more to violence as their last stand.

  12. friedfish2718 says

    “When even fear of death is not enough”
    So what.
    Many pictures/movies show horrible and nauseating mutilations and deaths of soldiers. And yet people volunteer to the military.
    Many pictures/movies show horrible and nauseating illness and death of tobacco smokers. And yet Albert Einstein -- a learned person -- was an avid cigar smoker.
    Many athletes would trade 5 years of their lives for a gold medal.
    Surgeons tell patients that there is risk of death from the operation. Their condition is not fatal. Yet most (NOT ALL!!!) patients willingly undergo the scalpel.
    Physicians tell patients that vaccinated have 0.001% chance of dying of Wuhan, young (< 40 yrs-old) non-vaccinated have 0.2% of dying of Wuahn. And yet many refuse vaccination.
    "When even fear of death is not enough"
    So what.
    All professions have risk. Some more than others.
    Should fire fighters run away because they are at mortal risk at the scene of the fire?
    Should farmers refrain from farming because they may be mangled or killed by farm equipment?
    Should police not respond to 911 calls because they may be killed by a violent suspect?
    The Totalitarian says:"Why resist? Do you know that resistance brings death to you!" And yet many totalitarians are toppled.
    "When even fear of death is not enough"
    So what.

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