March 22, 2017

A Liberty Snake for Zika Vaccine

I have returned to my Liberty Snake project. In order to decide what to write on the snakes for The Science March on Washington I have been doing more science reading. I just finished a book on climate change. Yesterday I read up on the Zika virus. After reading CDC reports, a great op ed piece by Bernie Sanders, and a New York Times magazine article on families in Brazil raising zika brain damaged children, I lettered "Don’t Tread on Our Right to Vaccines" on my white snake.

Follow the links here to the original articles:

The patterns on the snake were mostly done with large stamps over acrylic washes. Details were painted on with metallic pigments and liquid graphite. The colors were influenced, rather oddly, by the costumes in a performance I was watching of Der Rosenkavalier, by Richard Strauss - all those silks, satins and lace!

Certainly the festive colors on the snake belie a sobering story. What Bernie Sanders is railing against, and rightfully concerned about, is Trump’s potential "deal" with a French pharmaceutical company, giving them sole rights to the vaccine. Putting these rights in the hands of private industry would mean that they can set any price they want to for the vaccine. Senator Sanders points out that American Taxpaper money has already been spent, to the tune of billions, for the CDC to develop the vaccine. Now if a pharmaceutical company is given free reign to charge anything they want to dispense it, we essentially have to pay twice. But perhaps the ultimate danger here is that zika, as we have seen in the infants born with devastating microcephaly (mini-brain), potentially has broad implications for our public health.  We have a man heading our Health and Human Services who belongs to a fringe organization that does not believe in mandatory vaccines, (and who refused to answer the question about whether he supports mandatory vaccination at his confirmation hearing) a president who has superstitions about vaccines and may be setting up a system that could financially discourage citizens from getting the vaccine.

Could this mean that the U.S. might end up like Brazil? Babies born with a profound birth defect to mostly the poor and the young? I think possibly yes. We live in a country where there has been a growing indifference to civic responsibilities - if it doesn’t affect me then why bother? And our present administration encourages that shirking of responsibility towards our fellow citizens - all in the name of "freedom of choice." Men don’t give birth to babies so why should they have to get a vaccine? Never mind that zika can be sexually transmitted to a pregnant woman. I’ve already heard plenty of conservative males complaining that they shouldn’t have to pay for insurance that also covers the health care needs of women (although they’re often okay with women having to pay for health care needs peculiar to men). Rather foreshadows a potential debacle ahead if this sentiment extends to vaccinations.

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