VOICES: One out of every five people

Until the day he died, my grandfather never took a Bayer aspirin. He also refused Novocain at the dentist and denied a host of other drugs and medical treatments. He did all this, annoying his family and frustrating his doctors, because he knew too much about the role German pharmaceutical companies had played in funding World War II. A chemist, a genius, and somewhat mentally unstable, he just couldn’t get past his aversion to what he knew about medical research. As such, he dug in his heels.

Why do I tell this story? Because in today’s age of COVID, everyone has a family member like my grandfather. We all have a mother, sister, friend or cousin who refuses to get the COVID vaccine. Or perhaps we are that brother, father, uncle or coworker who won’t get jabbed. Wherever we fall on the continuum, we all feel the pressure. I don’t know a single family that isn’t being torn apart by the vaccine debate. What I do know is, whoever you are, you’re not alone.

What we need to realize is that even in Israel, a place touted as having “near-universal” vaccination, only 81% of the population has had both shots. 81% equals about four out of every five people. This means that even in the most-vaccinated country in the world, one out of every five people is refusing the jab.

Here in America, the federal government is increasing the pressure — tightening the thumbscrews — to force every last person to get vaccinated lest they lose their job as well as their right to go into a Walmart. But the thing is, there will always be that one out of every five people who simply won’t. Not if you threaten them. Not if you bribe them. They simply won’t.

They may not trust the government, pharmaceutical companies, or just Anthony Fauci. Vietnam vets, Native Hawaiians, black people, folks who used to work for biotech companies, people who’ve been injured by drugs in the past. All these people have their own histories, memories and attitudes, and none of us can (or should want to) beat their opinions out of them.

Right now, as Mayor Kawakami decides how to proceed regarding vaccine mandates on the island of Kaua‘i, he needs to consider — all of us need to consider — what we are willing to do to that one out of every five people who refuse to comply.

These are not strangers. They are our family and friends. Like my grandfather, they have their reasons for their fears. They even have a right to their stubbornness. (Even if said stubbornness is misguided.)

So what are we going to do? Are we going to enforce mandates from far-away Washington? Mandates designed for mainland big cities and that will drive apart families and marginalize members of our community? Or are we going to accept and embrace our ‘ohana, even though we may not always agree?

I, for one, love people just as much, whether or not they get the shot and whether or not they get COVID. No one in my world is a leper or will be treated as such. Hopefully, others feel the same.


Jen Cornforth is a resident of Kilauea

  1. peter September 12, 2021 6:02 am Reply

    There are always going to be people who don’t want to do something when told to do so by authority. Drivers didn’t want to wear set belts, motorcyclists didn’t want to wear helmets, smokers didn’t want to stop smoking in bars, and now the anti-vaccinated don’t want to get vaccinated. How do you deal with them ? The same way it’s always been done. Anti-vaxxers are not that special in their opposition. They’re the same kind of oppositional as the ones who came before them.

  2. james September 12, 2021 7:33 am Reply

    So the rest of us continue to have our lives turned upside down because these few refuse to listen to reason? Sorry, my compassion has run dry. I really don’t care anymore why they refuse if they are medically eligible and old enough to get vaccinated. I am sick of wearing a mask and having businesses pay the price because of these anti-vaxxers. There should be vaccine passports and those that without them should not be allowed to have the same privileges’ as those of us who decided to get vaccinated for the good of the community.

  3. Kaua’i Tutu September 12, 2021 7:37 am Reply

    Well said my dear!

  4. barbara guiliano September 12, 2021 7:55 am Reply

    Except that those one in five don’t just choose for themselves. Their choice affects everyone they come in contact with, with possible fatal consequences. I don’t understand why people don’t see that fact more clearly.

  5. Michaelle Edwards September 12, 2021 8:31 am Reply

    If we do not speak up for the vaccine, It may be hard to forgive ourselves if our friends or relatives who are unvaccinated wind up extremely ill or dead from covid. Rational discussions based on the facts and not the fears is imperative with all of the fear mongering. Also the decision to vaccinate is not just a personal one as it affects all of us. This is not about whether to use novocaine at the dentist. The unvaccinated are 90% of all covid cases in Hawaii and the Queens medical center is putting out graphs showing that there are NO vaccinated people in ICU or on ventilators. All of those extremely ill with covid are not vaccinated in Hawaii. Yes there are some breakthrough cases in those who are immune compromised but the majority of people who are sick and in the hospital are not vaccinated. Lets have compassion for our healthcare workers who are overwhelmed with the sick unvaccinated people who choose fear over science. Our hospitals are full of covid patients stressing the resources of our healthcare system. The decisions of the unvaccinated are affecting us all and prolonging this event. I have a friend who works in a covid ICU and she said it is so sad when people become extremely ill and realize the huge mistake they made in deciding not to vaccinate. Imagine the stress she feels when patients tell her they cannot breathe; especially when it could have been prevented if they had vaccinated.

  6. TomK September 12, 2021 8:41 am Reply

    Jen – What your grandfather did only affected him. Those “1 in 5” can affect others (children, elderly ). And that effect can potentially be lethal. That’s a very big difference than what your grandfather did.

  7. Sharon L Shaddock September 12, 2021 8:54 am Reply

    Amen, Jen, amen. Very well expressed.

  8. Kama'aina September 12, 2021 9:14 am Reply

    Thank you for your thoughtful perspective. We need unity in times like this not division. Our community is full of every kind of person and need and we should be decent to everyone.

  9. Steve September 12, 2021 9:39 am Reply

    Is this percent of eligible population or total population? It’s unclear. Perhaps the 20% in Israel who “refuse the vaccine” include kids under 12 who are ineligible? In any case, this is a public health issue with clear legal precedent. Unvaccinated people pose a danger to themselves and others. They can still make the personal choice but society can choose to exclude them from certain public participation.

    Even better than masks, vaccines protect you and they protects others. Getting a vaccine is a sign of aloha and respect.

    PS. Your grandpa sounds interesting. It’s sad he was traumatized and had such an extreme reaction. Not all medicine comes from Germany, let alone Nazi Germany. I can’t say I know anyone even remotely like him.

  10. Makani B. Howard September 12, 2021 9:44 am Reply

    While they are not “lepers” as you call them, they are passing the virus more than those who are vaccinated. I am sure there were people back in the day who were afraid to get a shot to get rid of their leprosy, but what is worse? Why people don’t see it just like this now? The possibility of dying or getting a shot? I guess because it doesn’t disfigure you, they take their chances?

    We have turned into such a foolish society, thinking we know better than the scientists who have studied a lifetime, while we have done “research” online for a couple of days! LOL! Get the shot already! How many people have died from the vaccine vs how many have died from the virus….. hmmmmm?

  11. truthbeknown September 12, 2021 2:51 pm Reply

    Well said Jenn Cornforth! This is a true expression of “aloha” and one that deserves to be shouted from the rooftops.

  12. Luv all September 12, 2021 5:16 pm Reply

    Jen, Thank you for putting my same thoughts which i have had a hard time expressing for months in a nutshell!,. we are NOT!, THE MAINLAND!!, and i too don’t give a crap weather one has gotten this darn vaccination or not!, this saddens me soooo much, its taking away from living.!! WAKE UP PEOPLE!, KNOCK OFF THE BLAME GAMEs!. Its truly causing people severe worry additional health problems , anxiety, fear,and even suicides, in our community. I’m fearing the government and why the push is soooo bad! Incentives that isn’t right!, Marijuana joints to get vaccinated!….The extreme push is pushing me away!!

  13. Rampartview September 13, 2021 6:35 am Reply

    As we discuss the value of the vaccine and urge folks to get it. And even are looking for sources for the booster shot…our government sets a valuable example:

    This is something that burns my butt!
    It is great that we get to argue and make our decisions about being vaccinated or not. Does anyone want to comment on the fact that the mandate specifically excludes members of Congress, Federal Judges and all of their staffs. Anybody else read to say it is time to stop that kind of junk!

    Get the vaccine all but as you do remember that the people that are supposed to serve us, work for us, have our best interest in mind….actually they set themselves up to be a privileged class that thinks themselves better than us and on a pedestal that does not need to follow laws and rules that they insist that we follow.

  14. Kali Yuga September 13, 2021 6:37 am Reply

    Thank you, Jen. Well written

  15. Jeff S. September 13, 2021 6:13 pm Reply

    I agree with many; very well written Jen. I’m vaccinated but do not look down on those that are not.

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