If statements made by public health officials cannot be assumed to be truthful straight out of the gate, we are all of us in an exceedingly deep hole. Which means, one might reasonably suggest, that we are at present in a very deep hole indeed.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House COVID response coordinator, recently said she “knew” that the COVID-19 vaccines wouldn’t prevent infection. One not unreasonable reaction: You have got to be kidding.

Sadly, she wasn’t. Those who tend to flavor their retorts with a good bit of snark might suggest that she was deadly serious.

So, what to do? The fundamental first step: Public health officials up and down the line have got to acknowledge that there’s a real problem. Some sincere apologies are also in order. Only then, and over much time and with great effort, can officials get to work at restoring trust. This won’t be easy, obviously, but it’s got to be done.

Because our numerous public health agencies, at all levels of government, will be beyond hope if they are not widely viewed as believable, truthful, endeavoring always to be as accurate as is humanly possible with the information they are putting forth.

If Birx knew right along that the vaccines weren’t all that they’d been cracked up to be, why did she wait until now to say something? Further, did it not bother her that a great many folks who might well not wished to get themselves jabbed were left with no choice because of the widespread mandates imposed by businesses, various government entities, the military? Not to have spoken up was unconscionable.

Public health has been badly damaged by what Birx left unsaid.

But the fault lies with the many, not solely with her. Too many at all levels of government just mindlessly parroted the latest talking point as though what they were saying was indisputable fact. On social distancing. The use of face masks. On the efficacy of the vaccines. On asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus.

Time was, statements made by public health officials were generally considered valid, except by those who favored wild-eyed conspiracy theories. They weren’t seen as gospel, but they weren’t viewed as likely little more than bald-faced lies. At present, those days are gone. And we are all of us so much worse off for that.

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