Dr. Thomas Dobbs sometimes lets his frustration with those who are making it harder to beat the COVID-19 pandemic get the best of him.
Mississippi’s chief health officer loses his patience, understandably so, with those who go out of their way to try to undermine steps that Dobbs and most reputable medical professionals and scientists not only believe will save lives and reduce suffering from the coronavirus, but also have objective proof to support it.
Last week during a press conference, Dobbs lost his cool when he called critics of the state’s vaccination efforts “anti-science Nazis” and “excuse monkeys.” Amid the call from at least one state legislator for Dobbs to resign over his remarks, the state health officer apologized this Tuesday for his choice of words to describe those who are trying to persuade folks that the vaccines are more dangerous than COVID-19.
That should be contrition enough from the good doctor.
Dobbs admittedly could have been more careful in his criticism of anti-vaccination zealots. The word “Nazi” in particular has become way overused, trivializing the evil that was done by German leaders and their troops prior to and during World War II to Jews, Gypsies and others whom Adolf Hitler considered undesirable. Anti-vaxxers may contribute to people’s deaths, but unlike the Nazi exterminators, that is not the anti-vaxxers’ intent. Most of them actually believe — as terribly misguided as they are — that they are helping people, not putting them into physical jeopardy.
But this tendency — from those at both political extremes — to demand resignations from people in public office when they say something impolitic or insensitive also is out of control.
When people in the public spotlight are tired, frustrated or under attack, they are not always at their best. Sometimes they say things that they later wish they hadn’t. They shouldn’t be crucified for it.
Dobbs has a tough, emotionally draining job. He knows that people are going to needlessly get sick and die in this state because too few of them have heeded his constant urgings to get vaccinated. He knows that Mississippi’s terribly low vaccination rate is most likely going to produce a rough time with the delta variant of COVID-19 that is spreading rapidly.
And he believes, with good reason, that the situation has been made worse by those who are working against his efforts and others in the state Health Department to overcome the public’s hesitancy to get the shots.
So, yes, he’s right to take the opponents of vaccination to task for it. He just needs to be careful about calling them names. It undermines the passionate but calm leadership he has tried to project from the onset of this pandemic.
- The Greenwood Commonwealth