BRATTLEBORO — As of July 11, 48 percent of the eligible population of the United States has been fully vaccinated, and 55.5 percent has received at least one shot/jab/injection.
We fell short of President Biden's goal that 70 percent would be vaccinated by July 4. The reasons for being unable to reach that goal are puzzling, to say the least.
Do we have a supply problem?
No. In fact, the rate of injection has diminished from a height of an average of 3.3 million vaccinations per day in April to a average of about 400,000 injections per day in July. Millions of unused doses sit in inventory. The FDA has recently extended the expiration date on millions of Johnson & Johnson doses to accommodate the supply chain.
Do we have an accessibility problem?
Apparently not. You can now get vaccinated at basketball and baseball games, and even NASCAR events, as well as at Walmart, CVS, and almost any other place with a mega-mall or a strip mall.
There are vaccination pop-up sites and incentives like lotteries and beers for shots. Many cities are sending teams to reach out to those who might not be able to get out on their own. You can even pray and get vaccinated, which seems like an exceptionally good idea.
Do we have a vaccination hesitancy/resistance problem?
Yes, although at this point, it has become increasingly difficult to understand why.
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There are certainly those who have legitimate health concerns that can or should discourage vaccination, but for most of us, there is more than ample education available about the vaccinations and the science behind them.
High on the list of nonsensical reasons not to get vaccinated are mistrust of the science, uncertainty about long term effects of the vaccine, and - in my opinion - freeloading laziness. There's also mistrust of the government, though I can sympathize with that one.
The medical science is clearly in support of vaccination. The risks of vaccination versus the risks of non-vaccination are overwhelming in favor of getting vaccinated.
The inability of some to be able to distinguish fact from opinion might be as much a criticism of our educational system or of self-serving politicians who fear telling the truth and offending our now-former 45th president. Or it might be just plain willful ignorance.
The infinitesimally minimal risk potential for harmful side effects seems to be far outweighed by the much-higher probability of death for those who contract the virus. What is the long-term side effect of death?
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Imagine the attitude of exhausted health-care givers who were empathetic to the plight of the afflicted before the vaccine was available who are now having to care for the unvaccinated-by-choice. They are truly serving above and beyond the call of duty.
How should we refer to those who leech off the goodwill of responsible citizens who get vaccinated and move us closer to herd immunity, thereby reducing risk for those who choose not to be vaccinated?
If that risk was limited to the person making that decision, I would have nothing to say. However, all voluntarily non-vaccinated people put the rest of us at higher risk.
They clog up our health-care delivery system so that others cannot access necessary treatments for other life-threatening illnesses or needs. More importantly, they provide a breeding ground for the development of viral mutations which produce hyper-resistant variants more infectious and virulent than any so far - such as the Delta variant.
This COVID-19 mutation has the potential to require everyone to be revaccinated and thereby slow the recovery of world economic health. The freeloader's choice not to be vaccinated is not a simply personal choice, but one with global population ramifications.
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Finally, now that we have a surplus of vaccine doses, Joe Biden has offered these unneeded doses to the world with no strings attached.
Should this be a non-controversial decision? Of course not. But it has already initiated a debate as to whom, when, and in what form this international redistribution might take place.
Ironically, or maybe not ironically, some of the lead debaters are also leading anti-vaxxers. Their position may be truly representative of the deep political and cultural divide in which we find ourselves today.
It seems that choosing life or death is not as important as backing a particular candidate or maintaining loyalty to your ideological tribe. No matter what stance one side takes, however noble or needed, the opposition will find reasons, however ignoble or ridiculous, to find fault.
There is an old fable about two farmers: one who has a goat, and one who doesn't. The farmer without a goat finds a magic lamp and is granted one wish by the genie of the lamp. He wishes to be made the same as the other farmer.
So the genie kills the other farmer's goat.
Is this how low we have descended?
In Vermont, I think not.