The other day, we published a letter to the editor from someone who acknowledged that they were against the coronavirus vaccination and had not received it. The response within the community has been unfortunately unsurprising.

When it comes to the board of trustees of the Vermont State Colleges System deciding that the name Vermont State University should now represent Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College, an adage comes to mind: “It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Vermont is experiencing, first-hand, the far-reaching impacts of climate change and the global nature crisis. Winter temperatures are rising and snowfall totals are dropping, while many species of wildlife are shifting their ranges further to the north and higher in elevation if they can, or…

The late author Michael Crichton would’ve loved the scientists and entrepreneurs at Colossal, the American company that wants to repopulate the Siberian tundra with herds of woolly mammoth-like creatures, ostensibly to help combat climate change.

In recent weeks, there have been several articles talking about the harsh effects the pandemic has had on Vermonters, especially when it comes to shifting incomes, feeding families and challenges facing the supply chain for products.


Federal judges ruled the traditional one town, one vote principle unconstitutional and in 1965 the Vermont House of Representatives voted to reapportion themselves. The representative of Stannard literally cried claiming their small community would never again have a representative. Fifty-si…

I consider myself a long-time champion of local democracy. I co-wrote with Frank Bryan a book subtitled “recreating democracy on a local scale” (The Vermont Papers, 1989). But over the years I have occasionally had the thought that there can also be a problem with local democracy, when power…

As I sit here, with four walls facing me, and a ceiling suspended above, my privilege in this world is unveiled. I’ve never had to fear where I will sleep the following night, search for a place to bathe nor go hungry because of food scarcity. I am never lacking in my basic human needs — for…

My biological Dad just bought an unfinished house near me. It is a solid timber-framed little gem tucked into what could only be described as an idyllic small canyon. The brook that runs through it begins about four miles west in an area well above 1,000 feet above sea level. There are no vi…

  • Updated


Advance for release Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, and thereafter

(For Gerson clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

WASHINGTON -- "Poor is the nation that has no heroes," Cicero said. But poorer still is a nation with the kind of heroes celebrated on Fox News.

The nation's leading purveyor of lethal medical advice during a pandemic (trademark pending) has recently elevated the resisters against coronavirus vaccines -- an airline pilot here, a nurse there -- as models of citizenship. These abstainers are risking their livelihoods in the cause of . . . what? Well, that depends on your view of the vaccines themselves.

For generations we've had vaccine mandates, particularly for childhood diseases, in every state plus Washington D.C. Few thought to call this tyranny because communities have a duty to maintain public health, and individuals have a duty to reasonably accommodate the common good -- even if this means allowing your child to be injected with a substance carrying a minuscule risk of harm.

So there can be no objection rooted in principle to vaccine mandates, unless you want to question them all the way down to measles, mumps and rubella. The problem must be covid-19 in particular.

If the coronavirus vaccines are risky, experimental concoctions with frequent side effects, then government and business mandates are social coercion run amok. We might as well mandate vaping.

But if these vaccines are carefully tested and encourage greater immunity to a deadly disease, with minimal risk of side effects, then the "heroism" of vaccine resisters takes on a different connotation: It means resisters are less courageous and more selfish than your average 6-year-old getting a second MMR dose. Perhaps vaccine mandates should be modified to include lollipops for whingeing malcontents.

So which view is correct? If only there were empirical means, some scientific method, to test the matter. If only there had been three phases of clinical trials, involving tens of thousands of volunteers, demonstrating the drugs to be safe and effective. If only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration were constantly monitoring safety concerns about the vaccines. If only we could estimate the number of covid deaths that might have been prevented if vaccine uptake were higher.

To break the suspense -- we do live in such a world. "From June through September 2021," concluded a recent Peterson-KFF report, "approximately 90,000 covid-19 deaths among adults likely would have been prevented with vaccination." So the matter is simple: Who is making vaccination more likely to take place, and who is not?

In this light, it's hard to blame the small group of workers who have been misled into believing that liberty is the right to infect your neighbors with a deadly pathogen. The main fault lies with the media outlets that spotlight and elevate such people, and with political figures who seek their political dreams by encouraging lethal ignorance.

In the latter category, the Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas are the repellent standouts. If the coronavirus could vote, these men would be governors for life. Most recently, Abbott issued an executive order saying "no entity" could impose vaccine mandates in his state. So far, many Texas business entities have treated his order with contempt, preferring to comply with President Biden's vaccinate-or-test mandate.

In my political youth, conservatives praised state governments as "laboratories of innovation." Now they're graveyards of sanity and public spirit. And the actual graveyards provide evidence.

The effectiveness of vaccine mandates is demonstrated by current practice. The United States has generally high rates of coverage for childhood vaccinations. But in states that make it easy to gain an exemption -- for religious or sometimes "philosophical" reasons -- the rates of coverage decline. And we've seen outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles as a result.

For my part, I'm not even sure what a "religious" exemption means in the case of covid. I understand that a few religious traditions object to receiving medical care entirely. But I don't think this is the main excuse for evangelicals seeking exemptions from covid vaccinations. What type or tradition of religion asserts the right to avoid minor risks and inconveniences in service to our neighbors? The Church of Perpetual Selfishness? The coven of Ayn Rand? Do Christians really want to be identified as people who permit breast augmentation but frown on vaccination? Getting vaccinated is not only good public health; it is also a small but important act of generosity.

Abbott and his ilk are seeking a morally desolate world in which people demand their autonomy even if it kills their neighbor. But there is a better world in which institutions have duties to the health and safety of citizens, and citizens have obligations to the health and happiness of one another. That is not only a better place to live -- it is a place where more of us would remain alive.

- - -

Michael Gerson's email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

I’d like to apologize because I’ve been keeping a secret. Sitting in a Guilford, Vermont farmhouse, I’ve known for several months about the Pandora Papers. But like 600 journalists in 117 countries around the world, I was sworn to secrecy.

Letters to the Editor

To the Editor: On Wednesday (Oct. 6), a picture perfect Vermont fall day, a good friend went for a bike ride that ended suddenly with a crash on the West River Trail. He doesn't know what happened because he remembers nothing from that day. His only souvenirs are a concussion, four broken ri…

To the Editor: In congratulations for reporter Bob Audette's excellent reporting of the kerfuffle between the town of Chesterfield and Joy LLC ‘s admitted failure to follow the rules ("Spofford Lake property owner presents 'olive branch' to town," Oct. 12), I offer the following assessment. …

To the Editor: I'd like to point out a problem with an article that appeared in Thursday's Reformer ("Controversial COVID drug difficult to get dispensed").

To the editor: I am responding to the article complaining about a problem with Halifax employee paychecks ("Halifax employees experience payroll delays," Oct. 7). I also question the placement of this article by Chris Mays on the front page of the Brattleboro Reformer.

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.

To the editor: I am writing in response to the article which appeared today (Oct. 5) in the Reformer regarding Peter Shumlin’s proposed development of the Ranney Farm in Westminster West ("Shumlin's neighbors turn out to oppose subdivision"). I am one of the "neighbors" who oppose the propos…

To the editor: Watching Farmhouse Square at Retreat Farm go from an empty expanse of grass to a sea of people on Thursday afternoons is always mesmerizing. The formula is simple — good food, live music, an inspired setting, and a community that clearly loves to be together.

Editorial Cartoons

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.