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THOMPSON: Anti-vaxxer deathbed confessions about belief in science too little, too late

September 13, 2021 - 12:00 PM



Stephen Harmon, a 34-year-old Los Angeles native…and an outspoken member of the Hillsong megachurch in Australia…died in late July from COVID-19. He had joked for months about the absurdities of wearing masks, getting vaccinated and maintaining social distance.

"Got 99 problems but a vax ain't one," he tweeted to his 7,000 followers back in June. He said several times that he trusted the Bible over top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. Harmon was one of an alarming number of influential right wing Talk Radio and religious folks to mock vaccines…to the very end. Harmon asked his followers to pray for him a couple days before he died.

Hillsong megachurch founder Brian Houston called Harmon’s death “heartbreaking.” Indeed!

The religious leader added that his church encourages its 150,000 members in 23 countries "to follow the guidance of their doctors.” Really?

But just because someone has an M.D. after his or her name doesn’t mean you should follow their advice automatically. Take Dr. Stephen Karanja, chairman of the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, who earlier this year advocated steam inhalation and hydroxychloroquine tablets to fight COVID-19, convinced hundreds of thousands of Kenyans to not take the vaccine. Bad advice. By the way, Dr. Karanja died of COVID-19 on April 30.

Also, there is - or was - Dick Farrel, a right wing TV and radio host and also a vociferous critic of Dr. Fauci, who urged his million listeners not to get vaccinated for the entire past year. He died Aug. 4. He texted his best friend about the vaccine a few days before dying… “Get it!” He told the friend the virus is no joke and added, “I wish I had gotten it!”

Phil Valentine, another prominent conservative radio host in Nashville, TN refused to get vaccinated, as well, and scoffed at COVID-19, saying his chances of dying from the virus were “way less than one percent.” Valentine told everyone to get a shot after he was hospitalized with COVID-19 in mid-Aug. He died less than two weeks later.

Yet another shock jock, Marc Bernier, a mainstay on talk radio in Daytona Beach, FL for 30 years, who called himself “Mr. Anti-Vax” and equated the U.S. government’s vaccination efforts with Nazi Germany in July…was an anti-vaxxer until he died of COVID-19 on Aug. 28.

Those who think I’m gleefully smug over the deaths of these and other Right Wing opponents of vaccines…nothing could be farther from the truth. But their misinformation, lies and hateful comments live on with audio and videotape…and in the minds of millions of people. Just as in life…death does not protect you from truth.

These folks not only aided in the taking of their own lives…they put millions of others at risk…and tens - maybe hundreds - of thousands who trusted their lies and misinformation paid for it with their own lives.

Even so, far too many - millions? - in true Right Wing conspiracy fashion still honour rather than hold accountable those who used their prominence to lie and mislead. Instead, the Right Wing followers have the gall to accuse doctors, science, Liberals and Democrats of “targeting” prominent anti-vaxxers with COVID-19.

You would hope that some of those who have long wrapped themselves in lies and misinformation would accept truth…science. Sad, no tragic, indeed, that it takes someone being on their deathbed before admitting the folly of their irrational and unfounded beliefs.

If you don’t believe in science or medicine…fine. Prove it…in everything you do. Go to restaurants and tell the folks working there to not bother washing their hands after going to the restroom. Ask them to cut the raw chicken on the same cutting board where they cut salad greens. Imagine being told to wash your hands…not cross-contaminate work surfaces…don’t the kitchen workers have rights? Hell, you might get really sick…though probably not die…but got to die from something, eh?

Yes, I openly shame those who don’t care enough to protect not only others but themselves. They deserve no less. They aren’t in any way freedom fighters or patriots or heroes. It is not their right. They are despicable folks who don’t care about anyone or anything.

I didn’t have empathy for the Nazis who cold-bloodedly put bullets in the heads of those they rounded-up. I feel much the same way about those who willingly keep this pandemic going. I can’t waste my energy on them any more…there are too many people who need and want help…and care about others.

Want to kill yourself? Okay, it’s as much your right as not taking a vaccine that saves yourself and others. If you must…try killing yourself without taking others - relatives, friends, strangers, women, children and the infirm - with you. At least you might not be hated for eternity.

And those who want to sweet-talk anti-vaxxers. Good enough. I’m all for what works…I just don’t think it makes sense in matters of life and death to carry a knife to a gun fight.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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