It’s been way too long since I spent part of a Saturday morning composing one of these posts about a news story that I learned about after already assembling this week’s Friday Five. Let’s just hop in:
More than one person I saw online (most of them either queer themselves or presenting themselves as allies) made a joke about the reason that so much of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. have rushed to get our vaccinations is because we’re all just dying to get out there and start hooking up for sex again.
And I know that is a sentiment many had expressed. Or that they missed going to bars or concerts and so on.
But I’m sorry, the friend I quoted in the caption of the graphic above has hit the nail on the head identifying not just why many of us got the vaccine as soon as we could, but also why most of the queer communities in various U.S. towns and cities, canceled 2020 Pride events mere weeks after the first lockdowns were announced.
For a lot of us, this isn’t the first time we have lived during a deadly epidemic.
In May of 2020, there was one of the Fox /(Propaganda/) network talking heads who tried to get a viral thing going about how all the queers and their liberal friends would stop supporting the idea of lockdown once late June rolled around at Pride Parades were cancelled.
She instead was dragged on social media and news sites with the fact that we’d already canceled the Pride Parades, on our own at least a month previously. I remember just weeks into the first lockdowns that on several queer forums people had already been posting, "We’re canceling in-person Pride events, right?"
I know I’ve told the following story on this blog and else where before: but there was one month in the early nineties where 12 people that I knew personally died from complications of AIDS. In a couple of cases, my late husband, Ray, and I had to decide which of the memorial services we weren’t going to attend. And that was after years of watching vibrant people we knew deteriorate before our eyes and die. It’s not that that was the only time a bunch happened close together, it just happened to be the worst.
For years we watching our neighbors, friends, acquaintances, community leaders, and more suffer and die with virtually no help from government health agencies. There were exceptions. Dr. Anthony Fauci famously (incognito) went to bathhouses and some other places queer men went looking for sex to get a better idea of the cultural reasons that a disease which could be transmitted sexually had spread so quickly. But most responses were like this:
The headline on that particular article at the site doesn’t mention what I think is a crucial aspect of those chilling recordings: most of the laughter you hear at the very idea that the government would concern itself at all with a deadly disease that was perceived as killing gays were members of the so-called liberal media.
In the early years hospital staff didn’t want to treat AIDS patients. What treatments that were offered were anti-viral medications most of which had been developed a decade or so before under military research grants because we were afraid future soldiers would face biological weapons in the field during conflicts. They actually hoped to develop a drug that would allow every soldier to be issued a few pills along with their other equipment and if they thought they’d been hit with a bio-weapon, they could take the pills and keep fighting. Didn’t quite work out.
But they were the only thing that seemed to slow down the virus, even though there were often some pretty severe side-effects.
In the early 90s someone came up with the idea of putting patients on not just one anti-viral, but three or more that each attacked different parts of typical viral replication process. By 1995, the so-called "antiviral cocktails" were approved for general use.
The result was startling.
It seemed like a miracle. Some people who were already very sick and looked like shadows of their former selves seemed to rejuvenate in a matter of months.
Unfortunately, those anti-viral drugs are very expensive. If you need three or more in combination, that makes things even worse. So the cocktails have only performed their apparently miracles in countries that have reliable health care.
And note that it isn’t a cure. It’s not really a miracle (unless you want to talk about the insane profit margins of the pharmaceutical companies). Because in order to stay alive and healthy, people infected with the HIV virus have to take those very expensive drug combinations (which still often have wicked side effects) every day for the rest of their lives.
We don’t have an HIV vaccine. Forty years into the epidemic that still kills hundreds of thousands of people world wide every year doesn’t have a vaccine.
Queer people younger than me, who don’t have the same personal memories of the worse part of the HIV epidemic, still had their lives overshadowed by the disease. Because despite the fact that most new infections in the U.S. these days are straight people (that’s right!), and most of the people who are dying in the so-called developing world are straight women and children, the perception is still that AIDS is a "gay thing." I linked a year or two ago to a poignant story a young cartoonist posted about how when he was 15 years old and had never had sex with anyone, he went to an anonymous clinic for an AIDS test–because all he knew about the disease was the gay people got it. Nothing he had been taught in school or seen in the news or what very few media portrayals of people dying of the disease there were at the time, had conveyed two very important facts: 1) any human can get infected by the virus that causes AIDS, 2) it is most often transmitted sexually.
And part of his story is talking about when he came out in in twenties and started meeting other gay people, virtually all of them approximately his age had gone through a period in their teens where, after realizing they were attracted to members of their own sex, they also assumed that meant they would die young because of AIDS.
My point is, that once these younger queers do find out that his horrible specter which was part of their trauma growing up queer and closeted is a disease that was ignored for decades? Well, their attitude about health issues is a lot like us older queers.
And so that is the real reason that so many of us rushed out to get vaccinated. We know what happens when a health crisis is ignored. And we damn well refuse to take part in ignoring this one.
This story is from March, but apparently it is still believed to be an issue: Nearly 7 million Americans might not get a COVID-19 vaccine because they don’t know it’s free
In another story I read (and now I can’t find it), some people still don’t believe it’s free specifically because certain pharmacy companies are saying, "Free with insurance." But that isn’t exactly the truth. By law in the U.S. no one is allowed to charge anyone for the vaccine. The government is paying for the vaccine. Unfortunately, while the same law says that they are not allowed to even charge patients any fee to cover the administration or other costs of delivering the vaccine, the law does allow them to charge your insurance a fee to cover the administering process.
But only if you have insurance.
They are legally barred from charging you anything for the vaccine.
I wish that the law had barred them from charging the insurance companies, too. Not to protect those for-profit companies, but because studies have shown that, for instance, if a municipality or county adopts a policy of trying to recovery ambulance costs from insurance companies while allowing the uninsured to get ambulance service free, people in critical health situations try to get themselves to an emergency room because they believe they will be hit with a very large bill if they take an ambulance.
Anyway, get the word out! Places providing vaccine shots are legal barred from charging you for the vaccine or any administrative fees related to getting the shot.
Get your shot!
Now that we aren’t worried about an illegal overthrow of the government (or at least less worried for now), it’s easier to both find and pay attention to news about the other existential crisis, the pandemic. So much so that these eight can’t wait until Friday:
I’ve linked to this continuously updated interactive map and article before: Tracking Covid-19 cases in the US – Since January 2020, the novel coronavirus has spread to each state and nearly every territory.
In a mix of good news and bad news: Coronavirus deaths and cases dip nationwide, but variant is on the rise.
And speaking of the variants: Moderna making booster shot to fight Covid-19 variants – New strains of the coronavirus have emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. Given how rampantly it’s running in the U.S., its only a matter of time before it mutates here, too, and we have a U.S. variant to add to the mix. Related: Moderna Says Vaccine Still Protects Against Virus Variants – The vaccine yields fewer antibodies against the variant discovered in South Africa, and so the company plans to test an alternate version.
The fact that viruses mutate is one of the reasons that the whole herd immunity argument is BS. If we and other nations had properly flattened the curve, this could have gone like the swine flu (H1N1) outbreak in 2009 or the SARS-CoV-1 outbreak of 2002. Public health measures (quarantine, case tracking) contained those so that they didn’t become widespread pandemics and more importantly didn’t start mutating in millions of simultaneously infected people. But because we let COVID-19 get into so much of the population, we’ve almost guaranteed that this is a virus, like influenza, that will be mutating, re-infecting, and killing some fraction of the population year after year. We’ll probably rolling out a new vaccine every year like influenza. And like influenza, getting the vaccine won’t guarantee that you never get infected, it just increases that chances that when you encounter new strains, you may of very mild symptoms or none at all. Which means you probably won’t die, but it also means that you’ll be contagious for a few days and perhaps not know it, and some none-zero number of people who interact with won’t be so lucky.
In other news: In a major setback, Merck to stop developing its two Covid-19 vaccines and focus on therapies. It was always likely that some of the vaccines would be less effective than others, so this isn’t a big surprised. Further down in the article they explain that one of their vaccine variants still shows signs of clinical usefulness, and some of the other treatments they’ve been trying to develop for people after they get sick are also looking promising. So all the the research is still going to be useful.
The sports world has been having mixed results dealing with the virus: Miami Heat to use coronavirus-sniffing dogs to screen fans at games. Given the screaming fits people have thrown in stores about masks, I’m not sure how this is going to work out…
Meanwhile, in companies decided to spend their money in ways that might keep more of their customers alive: Budweiser skips Super Bowl ad for first time in 37 years, will use money for COVID-19 vaccine awareness.We always knew that rich and powerful people would find ways to skip the line, but this particular couple are extra special: Covid vaccines: Casino boss resigns after jumping queue – CEO And Wife Posed As Motel Workers To Get Vaccine. They are also a great example of the problem with levying fines for things. They clearly spent way more than the $575 fine just to travel to the area and pull off their scam, and that fine is loose change compared to his salary. When the only penalty for a crime is a fine, all that means is that it is only a crime for the poor and working class…