I woke up today with the feeling that the last nine months could have started yesterday. In the newspapers, the reference hospital for Covid cases in Rio de Janeiro discharges its last patient; the vaccinometer of the State of SP registers more than 90% of the fully vaccinated adult population. While the United States and several countries in Europe struggle to go beyond the insufficient 60% of the population vaccinated, Brazil is finally putting on a show, as it used to do before the internet.
How could it have happened, when Pfizer proposed, in the distant past, using Brazilian expertise in vaccination to set an example to the world. By 2015, 97% of children received full vaccinations against polio, measles and many other completely preventable diseases.
But in 2020, according to the Ministry of Health, it was only 75%. What also happened in the span of just five years? Hesitation became fashion, and “social media” became the means of consumption for fashion pseudo-skepticism. A mere coincidence, the deniers will say.
I tend to turn up my nose at these kinds of easy backbiting where the latest in technology is blamed for the problems of humanity. I will insist that even in the case of falling vaccination rates in Brazil, the problem is people, not technologies.
But that technologies help, oh it helps.
Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times, lists “Unpopular Opinions” in her new book as one of the “One Hundred Things We Lost to the Internet.” In fact, the democratization of access to virtual megaphones on any telephone gave voice to the most ignoble nonsense, previously summarily eliminated by the scrutiny of newspaper, magazine and news editors. Opinions that once died alone now make news simply because they appear in angry tweets or subtitled video pills and become popular.
Or did they become popular because they made the news?
Whatever the truth of the current Tostines cookie (young people, YouTube explains), the fact is that what the brain hears cannot be unheard. Once we learn the language code, hearing or reading words causes the brain to automatically process them, put them together, and find meanings that evoke impressions, emotions, and actions that then leave their imprint on the world and memory.
Fear, in particular, is almost indelible, and fear-motivated inactions are a base kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, without vaccination, cases of measles have started to happen again. Poor poor children when polio returns in places without sewage, but at least when it hits the cities, at least the hospitals will already be equipped with the artificial respirators left by Covid’s patients.
Spoken nonsense cannot be unheard, but it may not be spread. Just as editorials are the prefrontal cortex of newspapers, it’s up to us to choose not to wind up pseudo-arguments. Vaccination prevents viruses and crooked ideas, but when they escape, what kills them is isolation.
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