We are all connected in so many ways, but the truth of this has never been more starkly apparent than in the case of vaccinations for COVID-19. After the initial rush and long lines to receive a shot, the reality has set in that there are millions of anti-vaxxers and vaccine hesitant individuals.
In the U.S., we have not yet reached 60 percent fully vaccinated, and in Island County, the fully vaccinated percent is an appallingly low 51 percent. This falls very short of achieving “herd immunity,” which is the point at which the transmission routes for the spread of the virus have reached the level where there is no longer the danger of epidemic disease or death.
Until we reach that point, all of us, both the vaccinated — because the vaccines are not 100 percent effective — and the unvaccinated are at risk of contacting this deadly virus and watching as new variants develop and threaten whatever progress we make. Those who are unvaccinated are most at risk as they account for nearly 100 percent of hospitalizations and death from COVID.
Until we reach herd immunity, we are looking at wearing masks, distancing and experiencing periodic short or prolonged lockdowns for the foreseeable future.
The thought of spending another isolated winter watching Netflix or working jigsaw puzzles is not appealing to me.
I have two degrees in public health and spent most of my adult life focusing on promoting a healthier community. So, when I hear those resistant to getting the vaccine say that it is their personal choice to make, I disagree. It is not a personal choice when your choice puts others at risk. An example of this, though not in the medical arena, is stopping at stop signs. Sometimes it’s irritating to stop and slow down our busy lives, but most of us wouldn’t dream of barreling through stop signs because we realize that we might hit someone, or someone might hit us and cause injury or death. We don’t yell that our civil liberties are being taken away by having to stop, or that it is our personal choice whether to stop or not. We do it for the collective good.
Why then are so many refusing to be vaccinated for the collective good? I understand that there are individuals with severe health issues who have been advised to avoid the vaccine. I respect those who might truly jeopardize their health by being vaccinated. However, I believe that number is quite small. Millions of people with multiple health issues, including many older people have received the vaccine with no ill effects. More likely the reason is that Americans are devouring misinformation by the carloads about this vaccine — misinformation that comes from poor or non-existent research, social media sources which spread inaccuracies, or websites which tout politically motivated or just plain incorrect facts.
I personally would welcome vaccine status restrictions on concerts, theaters, restaurants or other gatherings for the welfare of everyone. I have been so alarmed lately to learn of multiple incidents where unvaccinated people were not wearing masks, especially at indoor places and events, and even hugging people without telling them that they were not vaccinated. This is so dangerous with the more contagious Delta variant now in ascendancy.
If we could begin to believe that our friends and neighbors’ welfare is as important as our own, perhaps we might be convinced to get vaccinated. Until then, I ask those who are not vaccinated to always wear a mask and tell others around you honestly that you are not vaccinated.
Most importantly, please get vaccinated.