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As COVID resurges, vaccinated Americans rage against holdouts


 

COVID-19 rates are surging again, and many Americans who’ve been vaccinated are turning their anger toward those who refuse to get the shot.

Outraged at vaccine-hesitant people, some are even calling for mandates requiring all Americans to get inoculated, arguing the holdouts are allowing the Delta coronavirus variant to gain traction and reverse the progress the United States was making against the virus.

“I am angry, I am resentful, and I think it’s a fair and appropriate response,” said Jonathan Hyman, a Berea, Ohio, attorney who blames the unvaccinated for the backslide in pandemic progress.

Mr. Hyman has been following the difficult guidelines health experts have been urging from the beginning. He has been masking up, avoiding large gatherings, postponing travel, and he signed up to receive the vaccine as soon as it was available.

“We have been responsible, I did everything I was supposed to do,” said Mr. Hyman, 48, who didn’t visit his parents for 18 months to keep them safe. “Yet here we are, 16, 17 months later, and it feels like we’re in the exact same place we were last summer, and it’s all because some people refuse to do the responsible things they were told to do.”

James Simmons, a retired South Florida high school finance teacher, is also angered by the vaccine holdouts, citing new spikes in COVID-19 infections, hospitalization rates, and deaths across the country – nearly all of which are among unvaccinated people.

“I can’t fathom the fact that people have seen over 600,000 Americans die from COVID, yet are resistant to a vaccine that provides direct protection for themselves and others,” said Mr. Simmons, 63, who received the shot early. “Their irresponsible decision is an affront to those of us who are vaccinated and still wear masks for the benefit of our society.”

Melissa Martin, an Atlanta resident who contracted a serious case of COVID-19 in September 2020, says it is “perplexing and frustrating” that so many Americans are refusing the vaccine. She believes the anger so many vaccinated people feel is tied to fear.

“I believe at the core of this anger is a fear of losing the ones we love,” said Ms. Martin, 55, who has been vaccinated, as has her fiancé, Shane McGeehin. “I was very angry last year after contracting COVID. The experience of having COVID was negative physically, emotionally, and socially.”

She recalled arguing with friends and relatives who downplayed how severe the virus was and who still refuse vaccination, despite seeing how COVID affected her.

“I am trying to understand why they feel the way they do,” she said, “but I would describe the emotions I have now towards those who do not get the vaccine as frustration, confusion, and disbelief.”

Leana Wen, MD, an emergency medicine doctor and public health policy professor at George Washington University, said such sentiments are common and justified.

“I understand that feeling of frustration and anger, because it is the unvaccinated who are setting back the progress that we’ve made [because of] the many sacrifices that many people have undergone,” said Dr. Wen, author of the newly published book “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”

“I think it is appropriate for the vaccinated to feel like they’re being punished right now,” she said. “We as a country had the opportunity to beat this virus – to return to prepandemic normal [life] and have our kids go back to school without worrying about coronavirus and our economy fully recovering. We came so close to achieving this, but we didn’t, and now COVID-19 is surging again. The vaccinated are having to pay the price for the choices that some have made to not end this pandemic.”

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