Those of us who are vaccinated against COVID-19 tend to throw up our hands when others don't join us. We assume anyone who has not been jabbed by now will resist vaccination forever, so talking to them is pointless. The callous among us think if the unvaccinated come down with the virus, it's their own fault.
I don't see it that way. Yes, many of the un-jabbed are unpersuadable. Some, though, might acquiesce if their questions and concerns were answered. Good answers exist. If even a few minds can be changed, it's worth the effort. This post is my attempt to answer three of the most common questions.
With 54% of Americans having received at least one shot and 46% both, the U.S. is making good progress (https://covid.cdc.gov/…). It's even better if you don't count the young; 70% of Americans over 30 have received at least one shot.
But more needs to be done. Young people can die of COVID, too. In 16 states less than 40% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The vaccines are available and free and need to be distributed. The higher the vaccination rate, the faster the whole society can get back to normal.
One of the most common reasons people remain un-jabbed is they don't see COVID as a real threat. And it isn't -- to the vaccinated. But the Delta variant is raging through Africa, Asia and Australia, causing renewed lockdowns. Delta is now the dominant strain in the U.S. (https://www.wsj.com/…) It's highly contagious -- more than 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variation.
So yes, it's a threat. There's serious danger of a surge in hospitalizations and deaths this fall. It's the unvaccinated who will suffer.
Another key question raised by the unvaccinated concerns how quickly the vaccines were developed. It took years to develop vaccines against other diseases but only months for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines against COVID. How is that possible? They couldn't have done it without cutting corners, could they?
Actually, they could.
The most important reason they could is that years before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, the critical work of creating a vaccine against it had been done. COVID-19 is similar in important ways to Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS-CoV, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
A few years later, government and university scientists made a breakthrough in creating a vaccine against MERS -- a breakthrough they realized was transferable to other coronaviruses. (https://www.newyorker.com/…)
From 2017 to 2019, the biotech company Moderna worked with the National Institutes of Health to see how fast a vaccine could be developed, using this breakthrough, if a new pandemic struck. When it did, in late 2019 and early 2020, Moderna and other companies were ready.
Three other accelerating factors then kicked in. First, the Chinese, who regrettably have suppressed much too much information about COVID-19, made one big, important disclosure. On Jan. 10, 2020, they publicized the genome of the virus, letting scientists get to work.
Second, the companies didn't have to accumulate large quantities of the virus, a time-eating process that's necessary in developing most vaccines. The breakthrough against MERS-CoV was something called messenger RNA, which can be concocted quickly in a laboratory. When a body's cells are exposed to mRNA, they create antibodies that can then fight off the virus.
Third, Uncle Sam backed the development work with billions, enabling the companies to proceed quickly without financial risk. (https://www.houstonmethodist.org/…)
Thus, within a very few months, vaccines were coming off the development line and entering the lengthy testing process, starting with mice and moving to men. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines went through all the normal testing phases, trials that involved 70,000 people. Those who've been vaccinated, therefore, are not guinea pigs.
Another question the unvaccinated raise is the likelihood of unanticipated side effects. They're undeniably possible but need to be put in perspective.
There haven't been any life-threatening side effects yet, though they could still show up in the years ahead.
The side effects that have shown up are myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). Their occurrence has been rare, however, and few cases have lasted more than a few days or required hospitalization. No one has died of them.
Contrast that with more than 600,000 American fatalities from COVID-19. More than 2,700 of these have been young people (ages 12 to 29), the group that seems particularly susceptible to myocarditis and pericarditis.
Those who've survived COVID-19, even some of those who had mild or asymptomatic cases, are starting to report troubling longer-term health problems, including hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/…)
Bottom line: The risk of side effects from vaccinations is uncertain but so far minimal. The risk of death from COVID-19 is real and significant, as are the side effects experienced by COVID survivors.
Too many have died of this terrible disease. With the Delta variant, many more could die -- and it's the unvaccinated who are at risk. Let's hope that some of them will take heed of the answers and find them convincing.
Urban Lehner can be reached at email@example.com
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