JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE to join friends and family, get back to work, and visit our favorite restaurants, we are coming to grips with our new reality. Cases of Covid-19 are rising across the country again. To date, new infections in the U.S. are over 120,000 cases per day with 600 people dying each day. If only we had a way to fight back against the deadly virus.
News alert! A historic investment of resources by the public and private sectors in multiple countries, building off decades of vaccine experience and research, led to three different vaccines approved for emergency use by the FDA. Why were they approved? Because several dozen experts prioritized reviewing the data (because it is an emergency) from highly regulated research protocols and found them safe and effective. Since that time, more than 350 million Covid vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., and the vaccines have proven to be extremely safe and effective in the real world, especially at reducing hospitalizations and deaths.
Parts of the country that have low vaccination rates are being ravaged by the Delta variant, which is twice as contagious as the original virus. Nearly all recent U.S. deaths caused by Covid-19 are among the unvaccinated. The vaccination rate among adults in Columbia County (18 or older) is 69.7% according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the Delta variant bearing down on the county, how many people will end up hospitalized or dead because 30% of adults continue to resist being vaccinated?
On July 15 the US Surgeon General issued an advisory to warn the public about the urgent threat of health misinformation, stating that “health misinformation, including disinformation, have threatened the U.S. response to Covid-19 and continue to prevent Americans from getting vaccinated, prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk…”
Unfortunately, vaccine disinformation that is being spread via the internet has found receptive minds in Columbia County. A group has been busy undermining vaccination efforts in the area. These locals are not scientists. They are not health experts who represent public health agencies. These are misguided people irresponsibly impeding the community’s fight against a deadly virus. People financially supporting them are just as irresponsible as the individuals driving around with truck signs or spreading disinformation online.
Let’s remember, folks, if you are struggling to breathe, you will not be worrying about the minor side effects of the vaccine such as local swelling or mild flu-like symptoms, you will wish that you had listened to the county, state and national public health agencies encouraging you to get vaccinated.
If you are struggling to breathe, you will not be worrying about the minor side effects of the vaccine.
But this is not just about you. It’s about protecting the community, particularly the most vulnerable among us, including children under 12 who are not eligible for the vaccine as well as adults with underlying conditions and impaired immune systems. As the Delta variant spreads, we will likely see more Covid cases in kids. Most infected children will have mild symptoms, but some will need to be hospitalized with severe illness and some may suffer long-term neurological effects, based on recent reports. In New Orleans, for example, the Times reported that 15 kids with Covid were hospitalized with four in intensive care – including an infant.
Don’t listen to arguments that pit a misguided notion of individual freedom against the wellbeing of our communities. Talk with health professionals that you know and trust, read information from scientists and other credible sources such as the CDC, and be part of a caring public health response to help end the suffering caused by a global pandemic.
Michael Seserman, MPH is a Columbia County resident and former President of New York State Public Health Association.