Magnets, vaccines and the toll the conspiracy of misinformation takes on our ability to protect ourselves

This morning I walked around our house with a magnet to test a theory had made its Ohio debut in our statehouse on Wednesday and quickly ricocheted across the country. By Wednesday evening, CNN’s Jake Tapper was on the air pretending to be serious as he tried to attach a metal pen to his forehead to see whether his COVID-19 vaccine had turned him into an electromagnetic force field.

Cheer with me, fellow Ohioans:

O-H.

I-Oh, no, no, no.  

Republican house members had invited Sherri Tenpenny to testify in support of a bill that would weaken our state’s vaccination laws. She is a licensed doctor who is carving out quite the career for herself defying science and spreading lies about Covid-19 vaccines.   

“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized,” she said, out loud. “You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that.”

Hours later, there’s Jake Tapper, smacking that pen to his brow.

 “Nope,” he said as the pen tumbled onto his desk. “Not magnetic.” (Oh, sure you are, Jake. But not in that way.)

Will we remember loneliness, grief?

Last week, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention felt compelled to release a statement assuring everyone that “a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic, including at the site of the vaccination, which is usually your arm.” It went on to explain that all COVID-19 vaccines are free of metals.

 (Photo: Getty Images)

My magnet did stick to the large, sharp blades pulled from the wooden block on the counter, but I recommend not attempting to attach such things to your face, vaccinated or not. Depending on one’s girth, that blade could leave quite the bloody trail on its fall to your feet.

The angrier I am, the more I joke, I’m told. I’m feeling the truth of that right now.

Earlier this week, in an interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, composer and pianist Vijay Iyer offered this description for the toll this yearlong pandemic has inflicted on the human body, and our collective soul: “It’s kind of like when you’re in a car accident or something and your whole body kind of jerks into, like, a protective position, you know, for over a year.”

Yes, we do know. But will we remember?

Confusion, falsehoods: How we can fix COVID trust gap and get people vaccinated

Nearly 600,000 in our country have died during this pandemic. They left behind millions of others who only now, after months of vaccinations in America, are allowed to emerge from their cocoons of grief. Many will need coaxing to come out; some will never recover from that time of necessary loneliness, when they needed us most.

Fear COVID, not anti-vax judgment

Tenpenny and her ilk will continue to mislead, often at the invitation of public officials who were elected to serve and protect. They are fueling suspicions, and imperiling lives, particularly in the South. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines will soon expire if not used. This is happening even as experts, the real ones, warn of new COVID surges to come.

I’ve written a lot of columns about this pandemic and have appreciated the ongoing discussion with readers. Increasingly, I hear from those who want to be vaccinated but fear judgment, and even ostracism, from the anti-vaxxers in their midst. These are members of their family, and their friends. They are people who are supposed to love them.

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Connie Schultz is an Opinion columnist for USA TODAY. (Photo: Lylah Rose Wolff)

For those of you who are feeling this pressure to give in to others and not protect your own life, I have questions.

If you should get sick with COVID-19, which of those anti-vaxxers will take care of you and assume all of your responsibilities? If you end up hooked to a ventilator, which of them is going to save your life? If you die, who will be overcome by grief to go on without you? 

Getting the COVID vaccine is the best way to make sure you will survive this pandemic. If people who are supposed to love you don’t want to protect you, the vaccine is also your chance to make room in your life for people who do.

Connie Schultz is a columnist for USA TODAY. Reach her at CSchultz@usatoday.com or on Twitter: @connie.schultz 

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

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