teaser

Opinion: The truth Dunleavy should tell about COVID vaccines

Dunleavy made a political calculation to appease his party’s angry base by joining the lawsuits against the mandates.

  • Monday, December 6, 2021 11:01pm
  • Opinion

By Rich Moniak

On Monday, a federal judge in Missouri temporarily halted implementation of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states, including Alaska. The next day, the mandate was put on hold in all 50 states by a federal judge in Louisiana.

Those rulings seemed like good news for Gov. Mike Dunleavy. But they really hamper his goal of getting Alaska back to a pre-pandemic normal.

Dunleavy made a political calculation to appease his party’s angry base by joining the lawsuits against the mandates. Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, isn’t buying it. In his announcement that he’s running for governor, he claimed Dunleavy has “allowed liberty to take a backseat to tyranny” and “appears intent on bending to the pressure on the left.”

Kurka made his decision to enter the race a week after he and five legislators sponsored a listening session for constituents opposed to vaccine mandates. It was organized by Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, who Dunleavy lambasted last February for deceiving “the people of Alaska about their government’s response to the largest public health crisis in a century.”

Some in attendance aired honest complaints, such as losing their jobs with private employers for refusing to get vaccinated.

But others spoke of bizarre conspiracies. One woman accused Alaska doctors of wanting “the right to kill their own patients” and “patients of other doctors” who are seeking alternative forms of treatment. According to Joel Davidson, a man who called the vaccines “a bioweapon” got a standing ovation.

Accounts of the meeting provided by Davidson and Lex Treinen of Alaska Public Media didn’t mention if any of the six legislators pushed back against such outrageous accusations. But judging from Kurka’s comments, that didn’t happen.

“Sometimes we draw parallels to what preceded the evils that happened in Nazi Germany,” he said to the crowd via video. “But when you’re dealing with extreme evil, and when you’re dealing with authoritarian tyranny, I mean, what do you compare it to?”

Any politician comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust is either grossly ignorant or a fear mongering opportunist. It might play well the extreme right flank of his party, but it won’t earn Kurka any support beyond that.

But this isn’t about an election that’s 11 months away. Those in office now should be focused on using responsible mitigation measures to guide us out of the pandemic and back to normal. The two that matter most are wearing face masks in public places and getting more people vaccinated.

The gripe Kurka and Reinbold have with Dunleavy begins with him trusting the expertise of his Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, and the medical establishment across the state. He hasn’t endorsed every policy proposal they’ve strongly recommended, but he knows competent and ethical doctors and nurses are vital to the state’s response.

On the other hand, Dunleavy shied away from condemning the wildly outlandish accusations made against them during Reinbold’s event and at an Anchorage assembly hearing two months ago.

Dunleavy tried to placate his base by not enacting a statewide mask mandate. But he didn’t prohibit local governments from doing so. Or impose restrictions on what private businesses could do. Why? Because he didn’t have to play the heavy hand of government when others did the right thing by requiring masks be worn.

It’s the same with vaccinations. He’s promoted them all along, albeit meekly at times. Ultimately, he called them the tool we need “to put COVID-19 the rearview mirror.”

Essentially, Biden’s mandates would bring us closer to that goal. That’s why challenging them was worse than political posturing.

Double-dealing maneuvers like this aren’t uncommon in politics. But they rarely if ever work on long-lasting problems or ones that impact a wide range of voters. COVID is both.

As Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, so succinctly stated after a mob ransacked the Capitol last year, the best way to “show respect for the voters who were upset is by telling the truth.” In that case, the truth was Donald Trump had been lying about the election being stolen.

The truth Dunleavy needs to tell people angry over vaccine mandates is they’re being misled by doctors and scientists who were discredited by their profession long before they began spreading COVID disinformation.

Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector.

More in Opinion

A sign welcomes people to Kenai United Methodist Church on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
It’s time for a federal law against LGBTQ discrimination

When my wife and I decided to move to Alaska, we wondered if we would be welcome in our new neighborhood.

Terri Spigelmyer. (Photo provided)
Pay It Forward: Instilling volunteerism in the next generation

We hope to have instilled in our children empathy, cultural awareness, long-term planning and the selflessness of helping others

Hal Shepherd in an undated photo taken near Homer, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Hal Shepherd.)
Point of View: Election integrity or right-wing power grab?

Dr. King would be appalled at what is happening today

Nancy HIllstrand. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Trail Lakes is the sockeye salmon hero, not Tutka Bay

Tutka hatchery produces a pink salmon monoculture desecrating Kachemak Bay State Park and Critical Habitat Area as a feed lot

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Break the cycle of failure, debt in 2022

Today, all Americans are coerced, embarrassed or otherwise influenced into one of two old political parties

A map of Kachemak Bay State Park shows proposed land additions A, B and C in House Bill 52 and the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery. (Map courtesy of Alaska State Parks)
Opinion: Rep. Vance’s bill is anti-fishermen

House Bill 52 burdens 98.5% of Cook Inlet fishermen.

A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The failure of mail-in voting

The argument that mail-in balloting increases voter participation never impressed me

Charlie Franz.
Point of View: Election integrity is not anti-democratic

The federalization of elections by the Freedom to Vote Act infringes on the constitutional right of states to regulate elections.

Snow blows off Mt. Roberts high above the Thane avalanche chute, where an avalanche blew across the road during a major snowstorm. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
An Alaska winter of discontent

It’s been a hard winter throughout the state.

Most Read