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The Strawman Problem of the Pro COVID-19 Vaccine Arguments

A Strawman argument is when someone argues against a different point than the one his or her opposition has made. It's sometimes done by accident, but I think it's mostly done on purpose. Politicians do it all the time as a way to sound competent to their followers whilst painting their opposition as the convenient2 evil. Others do it to win culture wars or to have the satisfaction of feeling righteous in their cause.

So why does the Pro COVID-19 Vaccine group have a strawman problem? I find that a good portion of them, I'd even go as far as to say most of them don't respond to the anti COVID-19 vaxxers main reasons for not wanting the vaccine.

I should note that this might be an amplification problem, in that the media chooses to only amplify the most confrontational responses in order to garner more views.

With that being said, why is this a problem? When you don't respond to the point your opponent makes, they don't listen to you, especially if you're trying to convince them to do something. They'll remain unsatisfied and probably become even more resolute in their position.

Take for example, the problem with labelling anyone who is against COVID-19 vaccines in any form, including mandating it as 'anti-vax' as a whole. Most individuals that are reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine or mandate it, have had other forms of vaccines believe in vaccines, they just don't trust this vaccine. Not enough has been made to explain why this vaccine should be trusted. Pro COVID-19 vaxxers would point to the data for COVID deaths and hospitalisation to demonstrate the vaccine's success (more on that later) but that doesn't answer the question of lack of long-term studies or worries about how fast it's taken to develop the vaccine. After all, it is true that the COVID vaccines have only been around for about a year and that it was developed under operation warp speed (as President Trump labeled it) so we can't know the long-term effects.

The main argument that Pro COVID-19 Vaxxers present is the difference in death rate between vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Take for example the tweet below

On the face of it, that seems like a slam dunk argument that should convince anyone hesitant to take the vaccine. Figures like this are regularly touted by the news and around social media. But they assume unvaccinated (at least some of them) don't read or do research, or aren't presented with data from other unvaccinated who do that research. It's why you get responses to the tweet as seen below

The source of the data is the CDC which can be found here

Here's the problem; a significant number of the unvaccinated are aware that they are more likely to die because of their decision, most are aware they are more likely to be hospitalised. However, despite this, they still believe their chances of dying are still extremely low, especially if they think they are healthy and young enough. The question is does that data support this view?

Digging deeper into the CDC data you can break it down by age but the information given by the original tweet includes all ages. Yet everyone is aware of the impact of COVID on different age groups.

Below is the chart showing the overall death rate for vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Now lets compare that to a 'middle aged' group

As you can see the number dying in that age group is a lot lower (this is the same trend when we look at the figures for hospitalisation). It should be noted that the figures don't even take into account if the dead were obese or with pre-existing health conditions, considering the CDC own data showed that 78% of the dead were obese and other studies show that pre-existing conditions play a significant part in the chances of dying. This lead to another strawman argument many Pro COVID-19 Vax make. They believe many anti COVID-19 Vaxxers think that regardless of the age group, you shouldn't take the COVID-19 vaccine, yet when questioned I suspect most of them would say if they were old with pre-existing conditions then you should get the vaccine.

Many unvaccinated young healthy individuals see the figures presented to them and they conclude that despite the fact that they have more chance of dying from COVID-19, their chance of survival or not being hospitalised still remains pretty high. This is why the Pro Vaxxers method of trying to convince them is failing and they have to resort to force.

Using a different example, you're more likely to be the victim of violent crime living in a city than in the countryside. However, the chances of you being the victim of violent crime in a city is still extremely low. low enough that you probably won't fear it.

There is a wider argument to be made about the likelihood of catching Covid and spreading it if you're unvaccinated. But, as we have seen the vaccinated can catch it and spread it so that argument isn't on its own strong enough.

There are some that you will never convince and they are willing to fight, be imprisoned, and even die for their right to body autonomy.

However, it's possible to convince others, it'll take time, patience, and respect. I would suggest placing more focus on the burden they place on the health care systems or as I mentioned earlier making a better effort to show why they should trust the vaccines.

I am fully vaccinated and Just like many who refuse to take the vaccine, I think vaccines in general are good. I think the data shows the Covid vaccine has been successful in reducing hospitalisation and death. However, amongst the ‘young’ and healthy, they know the data still shows they have a very very very low chance of hospitalisation, talk less of death. And when they weigh that with the benefits of waiting a little while before being sure of the safety or protesting what the believe to be authoritarian methods to get them to have the vaccine, they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. Pro-Covid vaxxers need to be honest about this point if they want to attempt to convince more of them to take the vaccine.