Del. Lauren Arikan addresses an overflowing crowd at event hosted by the Republican Women of Baltimore County. Photo by HanaLyn Colvin
“Stop accepting the premise that the government or an employer is allowed to tell you what to put inside of your body. Period,” Delegate Lauren Arikan (R) told an energized crowd on Monday night at the Charles Village Pub and Patio.
Del. Arikan, who represents the 7th District in Northwest Baltimore and Harford Counties, was one of three keynote panelists featured at the October 11th discussion on vaccine mandates and passports. Ellen Sauerbrey, former Minority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates, emceed the event, which was hosted by the Republican Women of Baltimore County. The panelists explored the legal, medical, and legislative aspects of the vaccine mandates.
Attorney Jennifer Lester, who is challenging the University System of Maryland’s vaccine mandate in court, provided updates on current lawsuits and offered some steps that individuals can take when faced with a medical ultimatum on the job. Emergency medicine physician Dr. Frank DiTraglia shared his insights from the medical field about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. And Del. Arikan spoke about the legislative challenges facing Republicans who are fighting to hold the line against further encroachment on civil liberties.
The common thread of the night was peaceful non-compliance.
“It’s very, very important that we all stand up in every way we can in our individual lives,” Ms. Lester urged. “But I do think litigation is important because we have to remind the courts that they have an obligation to uphold the Constitution.” She lamented that many of the lawsuits that have been filed across the country have not fared well so far. “For some reason the courts have forgotten over 150 years of legal precedent that have given us the right to control our own bodies.”
Despite these initial disappointments, Ms. Lester stressed that we must continue to see the legal process through until a case ultimately reaches a judge that will uphold individual freedoms. She cautioned that it will be a long fight, but she urged citizens to stand their ground against unconstitutional demands. “Do not quit,” she insisted, suggesting that an employee facing an employer-imposed vaccine mandate should seek legal counsel, even if only to have an attorney write a letter on their behalf requesting a religious or medical exemption.
Dr. DiTraglia called into question the efficacy of the vaccines and mask requirements, based on his personal experience treating patients on the COVID front lines. He described the absurdity of wearing masks with holes ranging in size from 0.3 to 0.7 microns to keep out viral particles that are 0.1 microns, likening it to putting up a screen door with 7-inch holes to keep out a 1-inch fly. “They go in and out, it’s a complete waste of time,” he said.
The rhetoric around vaccines has likewise fallen short of real world data. “This is a pandemic of the vaccinated,” Dr. DiTraglia declared, turning the vaccine mandate slogan on its head. Citing data from Israel, a country that has seen one of the highest surges in COVID cases despite a nearly 80% vaccination rate, Dr. DiTraglia explained that vaccines confer only a very narrow immunity, and therefore those who are vaccinated are at risk of contracting the mutated strains of the virus such as the Delta variant. “If we had let this [disease] to go through its natural course, we would be done now,” he said. Natural immunity is far superior, providing complete protection against reinfection. “If you’ve had this disease, you don’t need the vaccine,” he said. “You can go anywhere. Case done.”
The information that Dr. DiTraglia has gathered about hospitalization rates across the country also does not match the official narrative. Although mainstream U.S. media continues to echo the claim that 99% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, Dr. DiTraglia said the physicians he spoke with are reporting that the vaccinated actually comprise 40% of their ICU patients.
These first-hand physician accounts track much more closely with the official data coming out of countries like Israel, which reports nearly 60% of hospitalized patients are vaccinated, and the UK, reporting as many as 87% of those hospitalized in Wales have been vaccinated. And a new Harvard study, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, found that “[i]ncreases in COVID‑19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination.” In fact, the study found a positive correlation trend between countries with high vaccination rates and high rates of COVID, which they observed across various counties within the U.S. as well. For instance, four of the five top counties with the highest vaccination rates in the country (above 90%) were also classified by the CDC as “High” transmission counties. Conversely, more than a quarter of counties classified as “Low” transmission counties had vaccination rates under 20%.
Dr. DiTraglia described being initially enthusiastic about the prospect of a COVID vaccine, but his enthusiasm soured in the face of disappointing empirical evidence. He also warned about the cytotoxicity of the spike protein used in the mRNA platform, and reminded the audience that an employer bears civil liability for any adverse effects if they mandate vaccination for their employees.
Del. Arikan urged anyone who has been harmed by the vaccines to reach out to her directly. She recounted her experience assisting a constituent’s son, who had been denied a medical exemption by his university even though he had almost died from a previous vaccination. The response he received with the denial said, “That’s a pretty common reaction.” After Del. Arikan reached out on the young man’s behalf, the school reversed the denial. She expressed how critical it is for Republican lawmakers to hear from constituents who are opposed to these mandates, especially from those who have experienced adverse side effects from the vaccines, so that they’ll feel enough pressure to “get off their butts and start fighting back.”
When asked about the MyIR mobile QR code Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has been pushing to track a person’s vaccination status, Del. Arikan did not mince words. “To me, it’s a passport,” she answered. “That’s what I called it the second that I saw it. I’m sure Hogan hates me, but I don’t care. That’s what this is. It doesn’t matter if it’s not mandatory. It’s still a passport and it can be made mandatory in the blink of your eye.”
She called the idea of medical passports “disgusting,” particularly considering America’s history of racial discrimination. “A huge percentage of people who have not consented to get the vaccine are people of color,” she noted. “So many of the people who are going to be denied access to services are people who have traditionally been denied access to services in this country.”
Del. Arikan also warned parents to be wary of Hogan’s forthcoming campaign to vaccinate children as young as five years old. She questioned the motives behind Hogan’s vaccination push, attributing much of it to the fact that it’s costing the state too much money to keep so many vaccines in cold storage. “They’ve got to get rid of it,” she explained, “and they’re going to find the easiest victims, which is always children because they don’t have a voice.”
But the evening wasn’t all doom and gloom predictions. In fact, the event was buoyed along by an undercurrent of hopeful resistance.
Ms. Lester proudly reported that she struck a victorious blow against vaccine mandates in Montgomery County when the public school system changed their policy to allow religious exemptions in response to a lawsuit she filed on behalf of a school employee.
Gordana Schifanelli, Dan Cox’s running mate in Maryland’s upcoming gubernatorial race, spoke briefly but passionately, reminding parents of the power they have to make tangible changes at the local level. In Queen Anne’s County, she announced, the school board recently voted to forbid any discussion, encouragement, or coercion related to vaccination status.
And Del. Arikan shared the story of a good friend who faced termination from her nursing job because she refused to take the vaccine for religious reasons. Her friend wrote an email to her employer asking them to reconsider, but ultimately was prepared to lose her job for her convictions. When the deadline came, the hospital extended it. She wrote them another email thanking them for the extension and reiterating her opposition to the mandate. A few weeks later, her employer announced they had decided to rescind the mandate altogether.
“Please, all of you, remember that,” Del. Arikan implored. “People are winning…But you have to stand up.”