Anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators gather as a truck convoy blocks the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, Canada, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators gather as a truck convoy blocks the highway at the busy U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alberta, Canada, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Opinion.: Reflections on the Juneau protest convoy

Although not perfect, vaccines have helped save countless lives.

  • By Mark S. Johnson
  • Tuesday, February 1, 2022 11:47pm
  • Opinion

By Mark S. Johnson

The protest convoy last Saturday by some local truckers, businesses and others caused a lot of reactions on social media, many supportive and many negative.

I had a different reaction to it.

First, I appreciated that it was peaceful. Regardless of our views on issues, we should respect everyone’s right to express their views and grievances peacefully.

Second, I respect the expressions of patriotism and supports for freedom.

Third, showing support and solidarity with fellow protesting truckers in Canada was a good reminder that Canadians are our neighbors and friends.

I also have no concern with the peaceful protesters honking horns, flashing lights and even temporarily slowing traffic in some areas. Peaceful protests often are noisy and cause minor inconveniences to others, sometimes blocking streets, etc.

I empathize with their frustrations. We are all weary of the significant disruptions to our lives due to the most serious worldwide pandemic in over one hundred years, and we are anxious for this COVID-19 pandemic to fade away!

My major disappointment was that the primary reason for the protest apparently was to express opposition to vaccine mandates.

Public health scientists have developed highly effective vaccines and they continue to develop new and improved vaccines to help protect us from serious and emerging infectious diseases. Although not perfect, vaccines, including the most recent COVID vaccines, have helped save countless lives and prevented millions of serious illnesses.

During this pandemic, we have learned that public health professionals and the larger medical community need to learn better ways to educate the public on methodologies used to develop and test vaccines. They also should learn how to better educate people about public health prevention and mitigation policies that help reduce serious threats to our general health and wellbeing.

Having studied health research methodologies, I appreciate the Food and Drug Administration’s processes for approving, rejecting, or limiting the use of newly developed medications and vaccines. I also understand that researchers at CDC have a greater challenge in developing public health guidelines because they are collecting current and ongoing data on infectious diseases that affect certain segments of the population differently, are more transmissible in different environments, and are mutating.

In this pandemic, we started with the original COVID-19 virus, then we had to respond to the more contagious and lethal delta variant, and now we are dealing with the even more infectious omicron variant. We hope the virus does not continue to mutate into even more infectious and lethal variants.

Public health and medical professionals, and political leaders, who try to follow the best available and evolving protocols and guidelines to help keep the general population as safe as possible should be commended.

Over the past two years, our primary public health enemy has been the COVID-19 virus! We all should work together to try to get this pandemic under control.

Mark S. Johnson retired from the Alaska Division of Public Health and has lived in Juneau for 43 years.

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