“Mom, WHY do I have to do this? History is sooo boring. Who even cares what happened 50 years ago?”
Like typical kids, mine were whining about what felt like pointless busy work. 50 years ago – that’s ancient history, right? As I heard my own response, it reminded me of an important truth: history matters because we have a tendency to repeat it – especially the negative history – and it’s important to learn from it instead. Theodore Roosevelt said it well, “The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.”
In light of that, are you aware of the surprising similarities between 1976 and 2020? Perhaps 2020 was not as “unprecedented” as we thought.
1976 was an election year with a Republican incumbent who was ultimately defeated by a Democrat. In February, a young, presumably healthy army recruit died from a swine flu virus. The narrative around his cause of death led to wide-spread fear as it was compared to the 1918 flu pandemic. Large-scale deaths were predicted. In March, the CDC director (Dr. David J. Sencer) called on President Ford to begin a mass vaccination program. Ford sunk $137 million tax payer dollars into rushing vaccine development. Concerns about the safety of the vaccines were raised and dismissed, while Congress passed legislation indemnifying vaccine manufacturers. By early October, Americans were lining up to receive the completed vaccine. 10 weeks later, 25% of Americans had received the vaccine, which left 25 dead and over 500 with Guillain-Barre syndrome (impacts peripheral nervous system and can lead to paralysis). The deaths and serious adverse reactions resulted in the vaccination program shutting down completely. The government, embarrassed over its failure, fired the CDC director.
Now compare 1976 with the story of COVID-19 we all know too well. The outbreak began in China in late 2019. Concerns in the US led to lockdowns beginning in March 2020. Fears soared as COVID-19 was compared to the 1918 flu pandemic. Operation Warp Speed quickly granted billions of tax-payer dollars to pharmaceutical companies for vaccine development. Concerns over the safety of the vaccines were raised and dismissed. Meanwhile, the PREP Act protects vaccine manufacturers by providing immunity from liability during a declared emergency. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna produced the first Emergency Use Authorized vaccines that were rolled out in the US on Dec. 14, 2020. Similar to 1976, many deaths and serious adverse reactions resulted from the rushed vaccines. This is where the similarities end.
Deaths from COVID-19 vaccines far exceed what we saw in 1976. There have been over 900 deaths in the first 8 weeks of COVID-19 shots (with only 13% of Americans receiving it). Yet, our vaccination program continues.
FACT: 25 deaths in 10 weeks shut down the 1976 rushed, government-funded vaccination program.
FACT: 900+ deaths in 8 weeks from a rushed, government-funded vaccination program seem to be ignored in 2021.
Contrary to our government’s reaction in 1976, the US seems to be doubling down on the messaging that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and greater uptake is essential in order to return to normal life. One example is this Facebook message to users.
What will you do?
Examining this history makes me wonder:
- Why aren’t we hearing about COVID-19 vaccine-related deaths on the news?
- Why are we still being told the vaccines are safe?
- Why are over 900 deaths (and counting) acceptable in 2021 when just 25 were shameful in 1976?
- What has changed and how have we changed since 1976?
Like my kids, some may be tempted to say, “Who cares what happened in 1976? Things are different now.” Yes, we have a different virus, but part of the response is history repeated (both our response and the government’s response). The question is, what will you do about it?