After minutes of careful sociological research, I’ve discovered the reason many Americans still refuse to get the free, safe and wildly effective COVID-19 vaccine: It can’t be eaten.
To date, the vaccine is only available in liquid form, delivered (or served) via needle. That is both unpalatable and not in keeping with the American tradition of scrupulously limiting what goes into the body only to things that are deep-fried, smothered in gravy or served between two halves of a glazed doughnut with a substance that, for legal reasons, has to be spelled “cheez.”
While a majority of Americans have eagerly lined up for shots, knowing they’ll protect them, their family members and people across the country from a virus that has already killed more than 600,000, the enthusiasm would surely have been greater if the vaccine came in funnel cake form.
I have to imagine the vaccine hesitant would see their hesitancy dissolve if the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a bacon-wrapped coronavirus-vaccine-on-a-stick and started serving it from food trucks at state fairs across the country.
We know the key to any business is to give the customers what they want. So why not apply that to the pandemic?
Not all Americans want a needle full of vaccine. But ALL Americans would want a “Death By Chocolate” dessert topped with a rich “No-Death-From-COVID Whipped-Vaccine Cream.”
Let them eat cake so they can continue to live and eat cake!
There’s an urgency to this vaccine rebranding given the current delta variant surge and the well-founded fear that more infections increase the odds of a vaccine-resistant variant emerging.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found nearly half of unvaccinated people say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine, and another 15% say it’s “very unlikely.” Among unvaccinated adults, 53% believe the vaccines are riskier than the virus, which is akin to thinking an afternoon stroll through the park is riskier than moonwalking through a mine field.
This is where a food-based approach to vaccines would help most.
On one hand, we have a vaccine deemed safe by the global medical community and built on decades of scientific research. On the other hand, we have Taco Bell’s Nacho Cheese Doritos® Locos Tacos Supreme®.
The first makes people nervous. The second makes people, myself very much included, want to order two.
We have 7-Eleven selling Glazed Cheesy BBQ Meatballs. We had KFC serving a Cheetos Sandwich, made with a fried chicken filet, orange Cheetos sauce and actual Cheetos. We have a beloved meat-ish creation known as a McRib.
Those things are not alarming. It seems each day we read about new taste sensations that add bacon to things that don’t normally come with bacon.
But a vaccine that fends off a deadly respiratory virus? That’s where some Americans draw the line. Keep that unhealthy stuff out of my body, tyrants!
The big question is how we get the vaccines out of needles and into the warm liquid cheese pumps at gas station nacho bars. I can’t help with that part. I’m more of an idea man.
But I have an alternative solution if it turns out the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines aren’t as effective after being submerged in boiling oil or blended into a frosting: Impose vaccine mandates on all fast food.
It’s one thing to tell people they can’t do unimportant things like fly or go to work or get an education without being vaccinated. It’s another thing entirely to tell them they can’t get a Jalapeño Angus Burger from Carl’s Jr. or a Cotton Candy doughnut from Krispy Kreme without proof of vaccination.
If corporations like Starbucks or Dunkin or McDonald’s or Popeyes institute a “No Shot, No Eat” policy tomorrow, I predict the percentage of vaccinated adults in America would hit 135% within a day. I know I, personally, would revaccinate, just to be sure my Dairy Queen addiction gets fed.
We have to find a way to come together in the fight against COVID-19, as the vaccine issue is tearing the country apart. A new Axios-Ipsos poll found 79% of those who have been vaccinated blame unvaccinated people for rising COVID-19 cases, presumably because unvaccinated people are close to 100% to blame for rising COVID-19 cases.
Among the unvaccinated, 37% blame “foreign travelers in the U.S.” and 27% blame the “mainstream media,” which makes about as much sense as fearing a safe vaccine while embracing a bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce sandwich that uses two pieces of fried chicken as the buns.
It’s clear the only thing that can unite us is delicious and supremely unhealthy food. So whether our medical experts transform the vaccine into a high-calorie carbonated beverage we can drink from a bucket or our fast-food corporations require vaccinations in order for us to access buckets of high-calorie carbonated beverages, we must chart a path forward.
It’s the American way. “No shot, no eat” will work like a (Lucky) Charm.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.