Anti-vaxxers aren’t hurting anyone other than themselves, with a few exceptions. Up to 98% of those in the intensive care units across the country are unvaccinated, according to reporting by The Associated Press. In some states, the ICUs are filled.

People with heart attacks or strokes are being turned away from hospitals in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and other states where there is literally no room because of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

ICU nurses and doctors are exhausted and view patient deaths as “normal.” With FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine and with Moderna and J&J soon to follow, one objection of the anti-vaxxers has been removed, and some of them will now be taking what the FDA has approved.

Others, relying on misinformation found on the internet or on right-wing sites, will continue to go unvaccinated.

While the anti-vaxxers’ beliefs are understandable, they are absolutely wrong. Understandable, but, with a few exceptions, they are harming no one but themselves.

Not so with anti-maskers. Mask do provide some — minimal — protection from COVID-19 to the wearer, but the primary benefit is to others. Masks prevent germs spewing out from the mouth while talking, sneezing or coughing. Those germs are contained, for the most part, in the mask and do not infect people near the talker, sneezer or cougher. This is particularly true in enclosed indoor spaces.

This has nothing to do with “freedom,” unless that means that others will contract COVID-19. In that sense, the “freedom” espoused by anti-maskers means the freedom to cause others to become sick and, for some, death. That is not freedom — it is deliberately causing harm.

The tactic chosen by anti-maskers is to disrupt — rudely and loudly — public hearings by elected or appointed officials. That tactic was all too evident at the Aug. 9 Columbia City Council meeting that has been the observation of Rebecca Shaw’s letter to the editor and of David Rosman’s column for this newspaper. Their comments were on point, and I see no need to add my two cents.

But the tactics of those rude people, who were allowed to stay in the meeting room in spite of breaking nearly every rule that should have caused them to be removed, were not unique to Columbia. Not only have elected officials been subjected to this obnoxious behavior, but the anti-maskers have targeted teachers, parents, public health officials, doctors and nurses. Anyone, it seems, who advocates the wearing of masks is publicly subjected to catcalls, racial slurs and, in a few instances, violence.

There is, however, a problem. While anti-vaxxers are mostly only causing harm to themselves and anti-maskers are causing harm to many other people, many anti-vaxxers are also anti-maskers.

These two groups, seemingly so different, see any mandate by local, state or federal agencies as an infringement on their rights, as they determine such.

Of course, these yahoos don’t see any problem with hatred of Asian/Pacific Islanders or the continuing problems of racism directed at people of color. It seems that they are only concerned about themselves and what they view as restrictions of their “freedom.”

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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