Three hundred years ago, Jonathan Swift made an observation about the gullibility of the human race: “Falsehood flies,” he observed, “and the truth comes limping after it.”
Remember, Swift made this observation long before the advent of social media and cable “news” outlets founded primarily to capture audiences with a relentless stream of unfounded alarmist claims where truth is sacrificed for clicks and rating points.
Today, it often seems that truth doesn’t have a fighting chance.
Nowhere do we see more evidence of this than here in Mississippi where the state’s COVID-19 vaccine program has been efficient, widely available, problem-free … and failing.
Seven in 10 Mississippians have yet to be vaccinated, the lowest vaccination rate in the nation. During the week that ended July 3, only 20,000 doses of COVID vaccines were administered, At its height at the beginning of the year, more than 100,000 doses were being administered per week. A program that began with an encouraging start has slowed to a trickle. The state has returned 900,000 vaccine doses because of a lack of demand.
Meanwhile, public health experts continue to remind us that in order to reach herd immunity and make COVID a relic of the past similar to polio, the vaccination rate needs to reach the 75-80 percent range.
We are nowhere close to that rate, obviously, which means that while COVID may not kill in the astonishing numbers we saw a year ago, it will continue to needlessly claim lives well into the future.
Swift noted the consequences of believing a lie over the truth:
“When men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale has had its effect,” he wrote.
But COVID is no jest: The lies about the safety and efficacy of vaccines are taking a deadly toll.
It is unfair to blame the disturbing prevalence of “vaccine hesitancy” on any one source, but Mississippi is last for a reason.
Throughout the pandemic, Gov. Tate Reeves has sent mixed messages, one hand grudgingly promoting the sound advice of the health experts, on the other hand stressing that people can do as they please.
A parent who tells a child, “Eat your spinach” then adds “but it is a personal choice” is not going to be pleased with the result.
Even today, as Mississippi continues to lag behind in vaccination, the Governor’s message remains wishy-washy and we see the effect. We should ot be surprised.
The message should be that vaccination is not a matter of personal choice: It is a matter of personal responsibility.
If the Governor cannot bring himself to say that, the rest of us should. We urge citizens to share that message with their friends, neighbors, co-workers, everyone you meet.
Lives likely depend on it.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.