By SEAN QUINTAL
At the February meeting of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club, members were fortunate to have the opportunity to hear from a sitting U.S. representative, Sara Jacobs (CA-50), and from an internationally renown epidemiologist, Rebecca Fielding-Miler.
Rep. Jacobs described for members her harrowing experience when Trump fanatics, white supremacists and organized seditionists stormed the United States Capitol building. She and other representatives were trapped beneath their seats, and were instructed to don their evacuation hoods, to prevent against airborne chemical toxins. Despite experiencing first-hand a terrifying assault on our government and our democracy, Jacobs acknowledged that some Republican representatives, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), continue to traffic in the lies, conspiracy theories and fascistic rhetoric that fomented and precipitated the insurrection. In addition to voting to strip Greene of her committee assignments, Jacobs supports an investigation by the evenly-bipartisan Ethics Committee, so that Americans can learn which members of Congress participated in the preparation and execution of the violent attack on our government.
That need for accountability notwithstanding, Jacobs continues to look for opportunities to accomplish legislative achievements on a bipartisan basis. She singled out Republican representatives Peter Meijer (MI-3) and Blake Moore (UT-1) as examples of thoughtful and principled legislators, who act in good faith on behalf of their constituents, and who are willing to challenge the dangerous and destructive extremist elements in the Republican caucus.
But with regard to the COVID relief bill, Jacobs made it clear that Democrats cannot and will not wait for Republicans to agree to sensible legislative action; the needs of the American people at this moment are too numerous, too great and too urgent to delay relief, simply to appease members of the minority party.
The most important thing the Democrats can do with the mandate they have received from the American people, said Jacobs, is to pass legislation that makes a material difference in the lives of Americans, so many of whom are suffering from the nonfeasance and malfeasance of the previous presidential administration, and of the previous congress. Every American will need a COVID vaccine, and millions of individuals, as well as countless small businesses, desperately need economic relief. These are the priorities that the Congresswoman maintains will animate the Democrats’ first months in the majority.
On the topic of COVID vaccinations, Jacobs pointed out that Congress has oversight of the unprecedented mobilization to vaccinate America. If any folks in her district are having trouble getting information or assistance from state or county officials, the Congresswoman invited constituents to contact her office.
This offer of assistance from Rep. Jacobs dovetailed neatly with our meeting’s other guest, epidemiologist Rebecca Fielding-Miller, of UCSD’s Division of Infectious Disease and Global Public Health. Ms. Fielding-Miller explained in detail to members the innumerable challenges of standing up not just a nationwide vaccination program, but an initiative to vaccinate most everyone on Earth.
She elaborated that the first two approved vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, are stunningly effective. But the vaccine requires two doses, given weeks apart, and the vaccines themselves must be maintained at extremely cold temperatures. These logistical elements would complicate even the most efficient vaccination rollout.
Dr. Fielding-Miller spoke hopefully about the soon-to-be-authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It is only one dose, and the vaccine does not require cold storage. While its clinical efficacy rate was proven to be 72% in the U.S., compared to 90%+ for Pfizer and Moderna, Dr. Fielding-Miller speculates that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may well prove to have the largest beneficial impact on public health, noting that in its clinical trials, there were zero instances of death or serious illness.
Dr. Fielding-Miller pointed out the critical importance of distributing all vaccines equitably, among various communities. COVID-19 is a highly contagious, airborne virus, so whenever any members of our community remain vulnerable to infection, we are all vulnerable; none of us may feel secure until we achieve a population-wide level of immunity of ~70%. Dr. Fielding-Miller explained that even those who have been infected with COVID still need to be vaccinated, as we do not know how long natural immunity lasts, or how protective it is for any individual.
The epidemiologist acknowledged that many folks remain skeptical of vaccines. She sensibly counseled that people are more likely to change their minds, when they are listened to, not when they are berated or yelled at. She herself has listened patiently, and explained calmly, to individuals who are vaccine-hesitant, pointing out to them, for example, that the vaccine does not effect fertility, and that it is impossible to deliver a microchip through the tiny aperture in a hypodermic needle.
In the months ahead, until we achieve herd immunity, Dr. Fielding-Miller reminds us of some basic things we can all do for each other: wear a mask; meeting outside is better than inside; seeing fewer people is better than more people; wash your hands; and help your friends get vaccinated.
Important guests and useful information are standard features of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club’s monthly meetings. At our next meeting, March 3 at 7 p.m., we will feature a candidate forum of all Democratic contenders for the State Assembly’s 79th District special election. To join the meeting by Zoom, simply follow the invite link on our club’s website, lmfdems.com.
— Sean Quintal writes on behalf of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club.