Suck in your schadenfreude, folks. This vaccine thing is about to get ugly.
If you’re like me, you’ve watched — first with uneasy amusement and more recently in aggravated horror — as the nation’s vaxinaughts raging against the machine have begun filling hospital beds as they come down with the ‘rona. It’s officially on the rebound in new and improved delta and lambda flavors.
The message from the nation’s pandemic experts is unequivocal and mighty: Pretty much every single hospitalization and death from COVID-19 reported these days could have been prevented with vaccines.
Currently, only about 54% of all Colorado residents have completed vaccination. It’s better news in places like the Aurora metro area, where that number is closer to 70%, but that makes the news much worse for outstate places like the Grand Junction region, where vaccination rates sink into the 40% range.
The battle the nation is facing was made clear Friday morning with a new AP Poll of people who aren’t vaccinated.
“Most Americans who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 say they are unlikely to get the shots and doubt they would work against the aggressive delta variant despite evidence they do,” the Associated Press writes. “Among American adults who have not yet received a vaccine, 35% say they probably will not, and 45% say they definitely will not, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just 3% say they definitely will get the shots, though another 16% say they probably will.”
The effects of this are in the numbers we’ve all grown weary of watching. Colorado racked up six new COVID-19 deaths Thursday and another 832 COVID-19 cases.
Mesa County, home to Grand Junction, has been tabbed as one of the nation’s top growth spots for the dreaded delta variant of the new coronavirus.
Here in the Aurora region, the news is bad, too, to the tune of infections rising 155% in the last month.
“While the overall rates are much lower than they were in April thanks to those who have been fully vaccinated against the virus, this recent increase in cases is concerning especially with school beginning in the next few weeks,” Tri-County Health officials said in a statement Friday. “Two connected factors are responsible for the increase in new cases: individuals who remain unvaccinated, and the highly contagious Delta variant.”
The 7-day incidence rate per 100,000 for COVID-19 cases rose Friday to 69 per 100,000, an increase of 155% since June 26. Arapahoe and Douglas county increases are about 70% and 65% over the same period.
What an epic tragedy. The nation musters genius, money and consensus like it never has before to produce enough free, effective and safe vaccine to halt a catastrophic pandemic — but fails. The tragedy of biblical proportion isn’t that we couldn’t pull it off, it’s that we were derailed by American folly.
Well over a year ago, experts probably knew there would be some number of Americans who wouldn’t let the vaccination syringe near their arms when the time came.
But the ingenious vaccine creators probably figured that a few thousand people living in caves in Montana or clad in aluminum foil helmets deep in the heart of Texas would ride out their weirdness alone while the supermajority of Americans took care of business.
Just a year ago, the deck seemed stacked in favor of a pandemic miracle as even the nation’s joker, Donald Trump, was banging the drum for an inevitable vaccine, which he pretty much made sound like “he alone” had invented.
Only months later, millions of Americans are refusing to accept a free, safe vaccine that can save their own lives. They choose to believe debunked and often laughable Fox News and Facebook hokum over the advice of endless trusted experts.
If this were a science fiction movie, the audience would be walking out about now because such a premise is just too far-fetched to swallow.
Even before the pandemic, however, the Colorado state Capitol would fill once a year with the mile-high tin foil brigade, hand-wringing over the state’s limpid laws that merely ask parents nicely to please vaccinate their children against cruel and deadly diseases before sending them off to public schools.
The push against vaccines then is much like the push against vaccines now.
Fermented from nonsense, lies, disinformation and psychological frailties, thousands of anti-vax parents push against common sense that has saved lives and childhood misery for generations. For years they’ve shared Facebook posts of debunked “studies” showing non-existent links between autism and vaccines. The consequences have been real with sporadic outbreaks of critical maladies across the country, all due to sinking childhood disease vaccination rates.
We are all living the bad dream of how much more serious the stakes are for people avoiding vaccination against the new coronavirus.
Every day, I hear and read a common sentiment about letting Darwinism handle the problem, pointing to the inevitable survival of the vaccinated as the fittest justice for the stubborn.
Even uber-conservative GOP Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, which has the worst vaccination rate in the country, said enough’s enough.
“Folks are supposed to have common sense,” she told reporters Thursday, as reported in Politico and other media. “But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”
Have a heart, folks. Stories from doctors across the Midwest and South recalling deathly ill COVID-19 patients begging for vaccine, only to be told it’s too late by the time you get sick, illustrate how tragic and complicated this has become.
Anti-vaxxers are foolish, but they’re not fools. Facing grave illness or death from infection, they always see the light.
So we have to do anything and everything we can to move the needles a little further toward effective herd immunity.
This week, Gov. Polis announced that some vaccination stations will hand out $100 Walmart gift cards to those who finally agree to take a shot. When this runs thin, make it $200. Maybe more.
I know. It’s not fair. Why reward people for their nearly criminal stubbornness? Because, it’s a net sum game, now.
The experts are unequivocal. With the new coronavirus raging around the globe and mutating into increasingly dangerous variants, the pandemic will be with us for years, and maybe for good, if we don’t end it with vaccination.
Forever is a big price to pay for smirking at “freedom fighters” coughing up a lung in the ER after having infected a few dozen people on the way in.
Stand back and let the government beg, plead, bribe and cajole as many as they can, as fast as they can, and spend tens or even hundreds of millions to do it.
But there will be a point when the carrot must meet the stick in the arm. Beyond that, Colorado can allow only provably vaccinated people to remain part of the public.
You don’t have to be a public health analyst to understand that not everyone we see maskless inside the grocery store, packed restaurant or gym is being honest about being fully vaccinated to warrant their bare faces. So many anti-vaxxers are dishonest with themselves about the pandemic, where they get their debunked “facts” and how they understand the risk to those besides themselves, we would be fools to expect them to be honest with the rest of us.
Go ahead, coax and wheedle as many as you can, maybe through August. Then protect all of us from themselves by at least forcing them to cover their infectious parts in public places like gas stations and food stores. If the virus continues to spread, anything short of vaccine passports in public becomes irresponsible and a guaranteed precursor to another round of lockdowns.
Colorado must be ready to move past just reasoning with people who are putting all of us at risk. We have to become reasonable.
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