It’s one thing when toddlers in their terrible twos react to common sense directions for their own good, throwing themselves to the floor, declaring, “I won’t, I won’t — and you can’t make me …” When grownups behave in, basically, the same way, the results can be catastrophic.
That’s like wiping out the equivalent or more of the population of cities like Boston, Nashville, or Las Vegas.
The virus’s victims, tragically, have become younger, with those younger than 55 recording in August the highest death rates in every age category, the New York Times reported, also noting that “40% of the most recent 100,000 people to die of the virus were under 65, a share higher than at any other point in the pandemic.”
Hundreds of thousands of the U.S. deaths were preventable, with 200,000 since February of this year when the Biden Administration had rolled out a nationwide campaign to provide the public with safe and highly effective vaccines. (See graphic above, courtesy of the New York Times and its excellent visual display of pandemic data).
Here is what the newspaper reported on this important reality:
“The United States government has not closely tracked the vaccination status of everyone who has been infected with the virus, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has so far identified 2,900 people who were vaccinated among the 100,000 who died of Covid since mid-June. Vaccines have been proven highly effective in preventing severe illness and death, and a study from the CDC that was published in September found that after Delta became the dominant variant, unvaccinated people were more than 10 times as likely to die of the virus as the vaccinated were. The study, which spanned from April to mid-July, used data from 10 states, New York City, Los Angeles County and King County, Wash., which includes Seattle.”
Consequences of torrent of disinformation
A torrent of falsehoods, notably on conservative media outlets, and a wave of politically partisan resistance to vaccines — on extreme claims of individual rights — undercut optimal roll-out of public health safeguards, including vaccinations, face covering, and common sense behaviors like social distancing.
The consequence of the “we won’t, we won’t” view has been calamitous in conservative strongholds in the South, Mountain West, and in the reddest parts of even blue states. A summer Delta variant surge, which only now may be starting to ease, has resulted in coronavirus deaths spiking by 100,000 in recent months — a largely preventable toll, experts say, that could have been prevented by Americans, particularly the young, getting shots.
For those who have denied or dismissed the disease and entertained wild suspicions about vaccines, doctors, public health, and modern medicine, the tragic losses are hitting hard, the New York Times reported. The relentless wave of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths also is ripping apart a U.S. health care system ill-designed to handle a prolonged, resource-intensive, and exhausting pandemic.
Fear of the Delta variant’s harms has increased vaccination rates from coast to coast, as have inoculation requirements by schools, businesses, and governments.
Federal officials report that, as of Oct. 2, 214 million Americans older than 12 and eligible for vaccination, or 75.6% of that population are fully vaccinated.
Despite the cacophony over the need for booster shots, especially for older Americans, the immunocompromised and those with preexisting conditions, and for workers with high exposure to the disease, the rollout of Pfizer-eligible patients for a third dose of vaccine has slipped from news headlines. Expert reviews are pending on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters, as well as the prospect of vaccines for kids younger than 12.
Big chatter disappears as vaccine deadlines hit
Opponents have derided the mandates for vaccines and face coverings, even as research and hard experience shows they work. Foes have insisted they would quit employers requiring them to get coronavirus shots.
The bluster — including in shocking areas like health care, education, and in military service — has blown up once vaccine deadlines have hit. Headlines may report what look like large dismissals due to failure to adhere to vaccination rules. The underlying reality tells a far different truth: significant numbers of the unvaccinated are flipping and giving up their unfounded assaults on vaccines.
It is confounding to see law enforcement personnel, fire fighters, and first responders balk at getting coronavirus shots, not only because their brave work puts them at high exposure risk but also because they routinely get inoculated for so many other infectious ills, without question.
Rejecting vaccines but embracing costly, complex therapies
It is even more baffling why those opposing vaccines — claiming they don’t know what’s in them, or that they were developed too quickly to be good, or that they involve wild-eyed conspiracies — so readily embrace other new medical treatments. They may berate and bully health workers when hospitalized in bad shape with the coronavirus. But they eagerly will accept costly monoclonal antibody therapies or a range of expensive, invasive, and high-tech medical treatments for the disease.
The major drug maker Merck has offered hopeful early information about a coronavirus treatment in a pill. The company says it will seek emergency approval for its medication, which has shown strong results in preventing deaths and serious progression of coronavirus infections.
The treatment regiment with this drug is likely to run $700 or so and it can be done, if appropriate, with patients at home, meaning the ill may skip nose-bleed hospitalization costs.
Still, it is worth noting that the vaccines cost the U.S. government about $40 for two doses.
As is so true in so much of modern medicine, prevention is far cheaper — and so much more desirable — than treatment, especially given the stunning studies on the prevalence of lingering coronavirus harms, the sadly common, so-called “long covid.”
We are not done with the coronavirus and the huge trauma it has inflicted on us all. Please get tested, if appropriate, and get vaccinated. Officials are trying to make it as easy and convenient, as possible — and it’s free. All medical interventions carry risk. But vaccines’ benefits long have been shown to far outweigh their harms. If you’re uncertain about getting a booster, talk to your doctor, pronto. And, while you’re at it, ask about and get your annual flu shot. We cannot ignore disease and death and embrace nihilism and fatalism. We can quell the coronavirus and we must do so before it mutates again in ways that can be even more disastrous.