Leonard Zwelling

I enjoy watching Kyrie Irving play basketball. I have ever since he was a one-and-done at Duke and then went to the NBA and brought the Cleveland Cavaliers a championship alongside LeBron James. Mr. Irving is a gifted basketball talent and a dedicated spokesman for Black Lives Matter and has made major contributions to worthy causes. He’s a good citizen. BUT—he’s not vaccinated and this is going to cost him about $380,000 per home game plus several road games because New York where he plays for the Brooklyn Nets and San Francisco have vaccine mandates to allow entry into athletic stadiums. It could cost the Nets the NBA championship as well.

Mr. Irving is also a players’ union vice president and I suspect the union may have something to say about this, BUT this is out of their control and in the hands of city leadership that believes that public health trumps individual choice. The city officials are right.

For some reason, many Americans have it in their heads that they can do whatever they please as long as it does not break the law or interfere with someone else doing what he or she pleases. This is not correct. We live in a complex society in which individuals have responsibilities to other individuals and one of those responsibilities is not doing things that endanger the health of others—like not getting a covid vaccination.

Repeatedly, thus blog has promoted the concept that public health is a real thing, it saves lives and requires government agencies to make demands of individuals with which they might not always want to comply. Tough toenails! We are in the midst of a serious pandemic. The current figure is around 700,000 Americans have died from covid. Even if that is off by a factor of two, 350,000 have died and many were not frail, aged or harboring pre-existing conditions as some of my friends insist is the case for all who die from covid.

We humans have made a lot of progress against this animal virus, but not enough. We are still not sure why some people get very sick and some have the sniffles. We still aren’t sure where it came from and whether or not this is a weaponized virus from our friends in Wuhan. But we do know that there are certain things that we can do to lessen the spread of the virus and diminish the threat of the pandemic. Having not done those things sufficiently (100% vaccination), covid will likely become an endemic virus requiring yearly steps to prevent widespread disease including, perhaps, seasonal, yearly vaccines. Thanks, China. And thanks to all of the anti-vaxxers with a platform on Fox News.

I hear Mr. Irving and get his point of view. He is simply wrong. So are the people who say that people who have contracted covid don’t need vaccination. They may need it less, but not zero. My understanding from the most recent data is that natural immunity to covid is broad, but may not be brisk in some cases. A shot will fix that.

I think the two scientists who figured out how to construct mRNA vaccines that could be used in people (; Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman) probably should have won the Nobel Prize this year, but as the Nature article shows, many, many scientists have contributed to the success that has benefitted all of us who got vaccinated. It may be hard to pick just three who should share the Prize. To me, this history is astonishing and shows how important basic science can become even as its practical applications occur years after initial discoveries.

None of that excuses the nonsense that is Kyrie Irving’s behavior. Does he have a right not to get vaccinated? That’s up for debate. Will he pay a price for his independence and foolishness? He will. And he ought to. Public health is not about an imposition to freedom. It’s about the public’s health. Kyrie, get over yourself!

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