People are being too optimistic about the end of COVID-19

Vaccinated people who think the COVID-19 pandemic is over are compared to Pollyana - a character who is eternally, and sometimes unreasonably, optimistic

Illustrative photo of people walking in Jerusalem with masks, July 15, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Illustrative photo of people walking in Jerusalem with masks, July 15, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Every Jewish community, like every other community around the world, has had the wind knocked out of it as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic. No one in the Jewish world, where we are distanced from each other by far less than six degrees of separation, does not know someone who succumbed to COVID.

Wave after wave, we coped. Most of us, thankfully, masked and socially distanced and kept hand sanitizer by our side. Some were more skeptical about the efficacy of these new behaviors than were others, but by the time the vaccines were introduced into our lives, even many skeptics had been swayed.

And for a short while, we were lulled into thinking that we had found a way out of this dark tunnel, that we would be able to slay the dragon called COVID and resume our lives. And all it would take was a jab. A prick. A vaccination. And then another. 

But then came the new wave – the new variant. And now, 20 months after we first learned the words coronavirus and COVID, we are fighting to stay safe and stay alive and to defeat the Delta variant. 

Delta is destructive. It has “punched through” the double dose of Pfizer vaccine which many of us – and almost all of Israel – received. And that is why Israel wisely began its third shot or booster program. Our antibodies wane, just as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described in his address before the United Nations General Assembly.

Moderna’s vaccine has had better success against this new COVID Delta variant than the Pfizer vaccine.  There is a simple reason for that difference between vaccines. The Pfizer shot has 30 micrograms of mRNA, while the Moderna shot has 100 micrograms of mRNA.

 PEOPLE IN THE 50+ age group receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit Health Care Center in Katzrin on Monday. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90) PEOPLE IN THE 50+ age group receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit Health Care Center in Katzrin on Monday. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

BUT NOW a new problem has arisen. Those of us who have taken the vaccine, or vaccines, have come to terms with those who have not. We may not agree with anti-vaxxers, but we have learned to live with them (or to separate from them) and to accept their reasons for not being vaccinated. But now a new group has emerged.

They are the COVID Pollyannas.

Pollyanna was a children’s novel written in 1913 by Eleanor H. Porter. It was so successful a book that it soon became a series of books and then, in 1960, a movie starring Hayley Mills. Pollyanna, a young orphan, was the eternal optimist. She believed that all adversity can be conquered with a positive attitude.

The word “Pollyannish” made it into the dictionary and is defined as unreasonably or illogically optimistic. 

I am encountering people, vaccinated people, who are telling me – actually insisting – that COVID is over and that the Delta variant is a made-up excuse for other illnesses.

When I first encountered this strange reality, my first COVID Pollyanna, I was stunned. Truly taken aback. How could someone be so oblivious to that which is so obvious?

I tried to point out examples of people who nearly died from the Delta variant. I spoke about one husband and wife, both in good health, both vibrant, both double vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, who were in the Borscht Belt, the Catskill Mountains, when they fell ill. They quickly became so sick that they were airlifted to a hospital in the New York City area, where they were infused with monoclonal antibodies. Now, six weeks later, they are better – but still not back to their normal selves or lifestyle.

The person making the argument that COVID is a thing of the past refused to accept that it really was COVID that had made them so sick.

Instead of trying to further convince him, I decided to try to understand how he was thinking. I have since encountered others, bright, educated, aware people, who have come to the same conclusion – the same wrong, unfounded and dangerous conclusion. 

The thinking goes something like this: We are almost all vaccinated, and once vaccinated, we will not get COVID. So these people are getting something else, and if they are dying, they have other conditions that are causing them to die.

These people are not anti-vaccine. They just do not understand the virus. No vaccine is perfect. Variants mutate and find their way through and around our immunity. The hope, boosted by science, is that natural immunity, in combination with vaccines, will be strong enough to keep us from succumbing to the virus. That is why those who are compromised are at such high risks. 

I am actually in favor of people saying what is on their minds. But in this instance, what they are saying is dangerous. And many COVID Pollyannas tease and taunt those of us trying to be careful and conscientious.

COVID is here for the foreseeable future. We need to gear up and prepare for battle. We need to be smart about it. That’s how we – as individuals and as a community – will survive, and hopefully, even thrive. 

The writer is a columnist and a social and political commentator.