New Castle News Opinion

Americans like to consider the United States the most advanced nation in the world, yet no where on the planet has childish conspiracy theories, partisan politics, irrationality, and superstition held more sway over the people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eight months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first COVID vaccine for emergency use, only half of the American people are fully vaccinated — far below the 70 or 80 percent needed to achieve so-called herd immunity that prevents the spread of the virus.

In Mercer and Lawrence Counties, vaccination rates are even lower, The Herald and New Castle News recently reported.

Even so, vaccine demand has dramatically dropped. At Hometown Pharmacy in New Castle, for example, head pharmacist Bob Ekiert said he provided about 600 vaccine doses a week in April. Now, that number has dropped to about 30 a week.

With a new Delta variant fueling outbreaks in the United States, mainly among the unvaccinated, vaccinations are even more crucial.

The notion that getting vaccinated is a personal choice in the midst of a pandemic is Bull. The unvaccinated imperil not only themselves, but also everyone they get near. In a very real sense, they are derelict in their duty to their fellow Americans.

Some — not all, but some — of the anti-vaccine sentiment comes from ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump. That’s ironic; putting the vaccine on a fast track was a signature achievement of the Trump administration.

Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, a model public-private partnership, was a gift to a nation plagued by a deadly pandemic. With an $18-billion federal investment, it delivered an effective vaccine to the people months before even the most optimistic projections. It’s puzzling, then, many of Trump’s supporters discount the proven value of COVID vaccines.

To be sure, government incompetence shares the blame for low U.S. vaccination rates. Local state, and federal governments bungled early distribution efforts. They failed to develop a decentralized strategy that would penetrate even hard-to-reach communities with convenient sites and culturally proficient community health workers.

Now, however, access and availability are no longer major barriers. Today, the problem is attitude.

Most of those who remain unvaccinated choose to do so, despite overwhelming evidence that they are far more likely to contract and spread the coronavirus. Nearly all COVID-related deaths are now among the unvaccinated.

Tragically, it’s likely tens of thousands of more preventable deaths will occur, as hospitals overload. Others will suffer debilitating illnesses that, in a few cases, could affect them for life. The rest of us, after a taste of freedom, might return to the gloomy days of mandatory masks and even lockdowns.

All that, too, was preventable.

We can’t change the past but we can alter the future.

If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do yourself, as well as your families, community, and nation a favor — do it today.

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