Monday, April 19, 2021

Where Are We Up to? And What Now?

Dr. Anthony Fauci getting vaccinated (Marketwatch)
I have been very strict about adhering to the COVID protocols. I doubt that are too many people that have been more critical of scofflaws in this regard than I have been. The reason I have had this attitude is that, frankly, I don’t want to die. I want to live. Over 2 million people worldwide have died because of this disease either directly or indirectly. I did not want to become one of them. I didn’t even want to be come even slightly sick... or even test positive without symptoms. 

By being careful and by the grace of God I have escaped this deadly plague. A lot of people I know have not.  A few even died.  Many more got pretty sick, needed hospitalizations, and even ventilators. Others that have recovered months ago are still suffering serious aftereffects.  

These observations made me double down on the primary precautions of social distancing and mask wearing. I have been doing so for over a year now. While this is true for a lot of people, it is not true for many others. Which in my view is slowing down progress towards the eventual herd immunity that will set us all free… and return us to a semblance of normalcy.  (Although I doubt it will be the same ‘normal’ as it was before. Some of the changes in our behavior over the past year due to COVID will be incorporated into the ‘new normal’. Which may actually be a good thing. But I digress.) 

Health experts tells us that herd immunity will occur when 70% of the population is vaccinated. This means that the chances of contracting COVID will be so low that it will not require any vigilance. The risk will be acceptably low. Much the same as other risks are which we accept and do not alter our behavior for. Such as automobile accidents resulting in death. There are about 100 of those every day!

The question is, what about now? And what if we never reach 70%? What do those of us that are fully vaccinated do? 

Are we fully immune? No. that is what 95% immunity in the case of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines means. Many fully vaccinated people will contract the disease anyway. (The New York Times reported new government data last week showing that 5,800 fully vaccinated Americans had contracted Covid.) 

It’s true that those that do will probably have very mild cases.. But there is no guarantee of that. We have no way of knowing whether anyone will die.  But when there is full vaccination the chances are so small - that we will sooner die of other causes that are a lot higher risk than COVID. Like those automobile accidents. How many people are not willing to get into a car because of that? If the number of fully vaccinated  people  that die of COVID is far less than that, what is there to talk about? 

So what is our situation now? As of now, over 131 million Americans have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s over half the country. But what if we do not reach herd immunity? Are we doomed to keep up these protocols indefinitely? 

America’s top expert in infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, addressed these issues this morning and this is basically what he said. 

This is a large and diverse country. Some sections have a low rate of vaccination and a high rate of infection. Other sections have a high rate of vaccination and low rate of infection. The latter will have a sort of herd immunity of their own. The sections with a high vaccination rate will be living a more or less normal lifestyle - correctly having a high degree of confidence that they will not contract COVID. This is not me saying this. It is Dr. Fauci. 

He added that he hopes that when people in low vaccination sections with higher infection rates see  people living more or less normally in highly vaccinated communities with a far lower infection rates - they might come to their senses, change their minds, and get vaccinated. 

On that score - a group of prominent respected people has been formed to convince fence-sitters to get vaccinated and refusers to change their minds. The team consists of sports figures, entertainers, respected community leaders and clergy. (How sad it is that some people will listen to a sports figure or entertainer ahead of a health expert. But, again, I digress.) These people will spread the word and hopefully change the hearts and minds of enough people to more quickly achieve the 70% we need to achieve herd immunity.

On a related note, it was also reported that politics seem to play a role in the vaccination rate. It appears that 50% of Republicans  have chosen not to be vaccinated. 

I really don’t get it. They cannot be the Trump Republicans because he has urged his followers to get vaccinated – as he himself did. 

What is the matter with these people? What’s their game? What are they afraid of? Do they really think the dangers of being vaccinated are greater than the dangers of getting COVID? If that’s what they think, it is the most irrational kind of thinking I can imagine. 

As I have said many times, I lean strongly conservative. Clearly the Republican party is the home of that political philosophy. In my view conservatives tend to more often choose rationality over emotion… while liberals tend to more often choose emotion over rationality.  But in this case the liberals got it right! 

What to do in the meantime - especially for those of us that are fully vaccinated. Here is my current thinking. We should keep up the protocols even while realizing that the chances of getting COVID are very low.  (Although not zero.) Wearing a mask and socially distancing is still a pretty small price to pay for that extra bit of security. But more importantly it should be done to encourage others that have not yet been vaccinated to keep doing it. At the same time, by being vaccinated and wearing a mask, I am far more relaxed about going out among people who are unmasked… as long as I do not congregate with them for too long. This might be a bit of overkill. But I’d rather err on the side of safety. 

Until such time as health experts tell us all that masks are no longer needed, I will for the most part continue this practice. Which I think is good advice for all of us. I only wish this was the attitude of those among our religious leadership that have completely abandoned all COVID precautions still advocated by health officials. I just hope it doesn't come back to haunt us.