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Port: Anti-vaccine demagogues keep dying from COVID-19

It's very easy for Americans to create a news and information bubble for themselves that's based on what they want to believe. Cable news offers a menu of choices, each catering to a particular ideology. Talk radio does the same, and the social media platforms use algorithms to feed you a steady diet of diatribes and memes from your preferred flavor of politics. And yet, in the end, reality comes for us all.

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Medical scrubs and marker filled messages on signs and bodies highlighted a divided medical community in Dickinson on Thursday as protestors gathered in front of CHI St. Alexius Health Dickinson in opposition to employment dependent mandates for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)
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MINOT, N.D. — At one point, conservative talk radio host Phil Valentine recorded a song parody mocking COVID-19 vaccinations and masking.

“Let me tell you how it will be, and I don’t care if you agree, ‘Cause I’m the Vaxman, yeah I’m the Vaxman,” he sang, set to the music of "Tax Man by the Beatles. “If you don’t like me coming round, be thankful I don’t hold you down.”

He was 61 years old when he died from COVID-19.

West Palm Beach talk radio host Dick Farrel called Dr. Anthony Fauci a "power-tripping lying freak" and advised his audience not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

He died earlier this month .

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Marc Bernier, a talk radio host for WNDB in Daytona Beach, described himself to his audience as “Mr. Anti-Vax."

He died over the weekend after contracting COVID-19 .

Christian radio host Jimmy DeYoung, the host of Prophecy Today, who questioned whether vaccinations were a form of government control, was hospitalized due to COVID-19 on August 7 and died eight days later .

H. Scott Apley, a member of the governing board of the Texas Republican Party, once told a doctor who was celebrating the success of COVID-19 vaccines that he was an "absolute enemy of a free people."

He died, at 45, two days after sharing a Facebook post suggesting that the vaccines don't work.

Last year Caleb Wallace helped organize the "Freedom Rally" in Texas, protesting pandemic-era policies intended to promote public health. He also co-founded the San Angelo Freedom Defenders. In July, he became ill from COVID-19. "He didn’t want to see a doctor, because he didn’t want to be part of the statistics with COVID tests,” his wife said.

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He died this last week.

He was 30.

We had a similar story to these in our region not so long ago, albeit with a happier ending. Daniel Pozarnsky, a Fargo-area chiropractor who had used his podcast and social media platforms to inveigh against the COVID-19 vaccines , managed to survive his own bout with the virus . "Karma's a b----," he wrote in a Facebook post after getting better . "I should have gotten the vaccine."

We live in vicious times, and I suspect some of you have the impulse to read these stories and gloat.

Please don't.

"This is not an occasion for schadenfreude, because each story is a tragedy," Charlie Sykes writes . "Families have been devastated. Children left without parents."

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This loss of life was needless. With a bit of caution and a vaccine that's both readily available and free, these deaths and the devastation they wrought for those who knew and loved the departed could have been avoided.

It's hard not to feel angry about that.

Here in North Dakota, the COVID-19 vaccines first became available on December 14, 2020.

Since then, just 0.0347% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 have been vaccinated, according to data from the state Department of Health .

Just 0.00631% of COVID-19 deaths in our state have been vaccinated.

Only 0.511% of new COVID-19 cases have been instances of "breakthrough" infections.

The evidence is undeniable.

The vaccines work.

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Signs and flags waved amidst cheers and chants, as healthcare workers and supporters gathered to protest vaccine mandates by the federal government and private businesses. (Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press)

Yet, in our region and across the nation, there is a belligerently anti-vaccination movement afoot. Just days ago, some 200 people, many of them who work as nurses, rallied against a vaccine mandate for nursing home workers announced by President Joe Biden's administration.

And, to a point, I get it. I wouldn't say I like mandates either. But reading the signs at the rally and monitoring the social media postings of some of its organizers, it's clear that the problem isn't just the mandate.

The problem, for them, is the vaccines themselves.

It's simple for Americans to create a news and information bubble for themselves that's based on what they want to believe. Cable news offers a menu of choices, each catering to a particular ideology. Talk radio does the same, and the social media platforms use algorithms to feed you a steady diet of diatribes and memes from your preferred flavor of politics.

And yet, in the end, reality comes for us all.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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