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Critical thinking is sorely missing in our decision-making about the COVID vaccines—and it is having tragic results.
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Americans are being bombarded with all kinds of information about the COVID-19 vaccines. As we can see every day, this information can be partial, fragmented, conflicting, inaccurate, or downright wrong. Information can be distorted by politics or religion or conspiracy theories. What is needed—and has been sorely missing—is critical thinking by all Americans. And until we apply critical thinking to the issue of vaccines, our nation will continue to flail and remain on its deadly course.
It does not have to be this way. All mental health professionals should be voicing their opinions about the vital role of critical thinking in individuals’ lives.
Critical thinking refers to the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue. It requires 5 central steps: identification of an issue; open-mindedness in bringing to light all sides of the issue; evaluation of the factualness of each piece of information; synthesizing the best facts into a cohesive whole; and formulating superior conclusions.
Historically, schools have done a terrible job of teaching us critical thinking. Most of us had classes where information was provided to us, we memorized it, and then we recited it back on exams. High grades reflected strong memorization. But the ability to think critically was seldom taught, even in high schools.
Colleges and universities have made critical thinking a priority in their classrooms. But, of course, only 42% of Americans have a college education. That means the vast majority of citizens have not had the opportunity to learn critical thinking.
Thus, we are inept at conquering complicated—and potentially deadly—national problems.
Let us apply critical thinking to the COVID-19 vaccines. If we do, here is what we know for certain: vaccines are effective and safe; upward of 90% of Americans must be vaccinated or have had the coronavirus for the pandemic to be soundly defeated; our national history of vaccinations has been extremely impressive; and decisions about vaccines must be based on medical and scientific evidence.
Our country is founded on the ideals of freedom and individual liberties. No one wants to take those away. But at this moment, when anti-science aggression is running wild, critical thinking must be far more salient in our decision-making than individual wishes, desires, politics, or religion. Critical thinking can debunk lies, conspiracy theories, and misinformation. It can lead us to the truth.
Until critical thinking is widely accepted about vaccines, thousands of Americans will continue to die each week. This is profoundly sad and tragic since these deaths are almost totally preventable.
All Americans must be vaccinated as soon as possible. It is the vehicle by which we can defeat this deadly pandemic. This is a certainty. This is the truth. Critical thinking can save lives. We just need to use it. Mental health professionals can be a role model for its use.
Dr Blotcky is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama.