We suspect that the vast majority of Timberjay readers have already been vaccinated for COVID-19. As a newspaper, we’ve made a concerted effort to keep our region well-informed on the virus and have undoubtedly published more on the subject than any other paper in our region.
Like most of you, we at the Timberjay were excited back in May and June after the rollout of vaccinations seemed to quell the pandemic and allowed for the reopening of just about everything. We had hoped at the time that we had put COVID-19 in our rear-view mirror.
Yet as the past few weeks have demonstrated, both nationally and here in Minnesota, the new Delta variant of the virus is threatening a fourth wave of the pandemic that could well be among the worst. Indeed, in some parts of the country, particularly where vaccination rates are low, the Delta variant has led to spikes in infections that already exceed numbers from any previous point during the pandemic.
While Minnesota has seen a significant uptick in infections in recent weeks, we haven’t seen the kind of outbreaks currently being experienced in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida. In some of these places, well under half of adults have been vaccinated, a fact that is allowing the virus to spread more quickly. Here in Minnesota, 70 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Yet even 30 percent of adults without vaccination is enough to sustain significant growth in the number of infections here in Minnesota, where case counts are once again rising quickly. That seriously threatens all of the progress that we’ve made.
As the Republican governor of Alabama recently put it as she watched the fourth wave fill hospitals there, “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks.”
While that stubborn subset of our population that refuses vaccination is a serious threat to our public health, we suspect that the blame game may only harden attitudes among the unvaccinated. We also know that messages in the media about the importance of vaccination go largely unheeded by vaccine skeptics. Health professionals have reported that family and friends can be the most trusted sources of information on the pandemic and the importance of vaccination, which is why we’re urging all of our readers to reach out to friends and loved ones who have not yet been vaccinated, with some things to consider, such as:
The unvaccinated population is not only allowing the Delta variant to catch fire here in the U.S., it is also increasing the likelihood that even more deadly and contagious strains will emerge. As we’ve seen, this virus is constantly evolving. If we all get vaccinated, we can snuff it out once and for all.
Refusing vaccination is a threat to young children in your life. Since vaccinations aren’t yet available for children under age 12, kids are especially vulnerable to infection. That’s particularly true with the Delta variant, which is highly contagious and now accounts for approximately 90 percent of all COVID infections among children.
Concerns about the safety of the vaccine are grossly exaggerated. Claims that they make people infertile or that the vaccines contain microchips or other such nonsense are nothing more than tinfoil hat conspiracy mongering. More than 4 billion COVID vaccines have been delivered globally since they became available. The number of individuals with significant negative reactions has been infinitesimal (you’re more likely to be attacked by a shark this year) and no different from other vaccines that have been used widely for decades.
The vaccines are well-tested and proven safe. Much has been made of the fact that the vaccines were developed more quickly than in the past, but that’s a largely meaningless fact. Sure, it took four years to develop the mumps vaccine, (which is often mentioned by skeptics), but that was in the 1950s. That was 70 years ago. The advancement in our medical technology is light years beyond that era. Everything goes faster today.
Besides, researchers already had developed the mRNA technology used in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines several years earlier, specifically to allow for the rapid rollout of vaccines in the event of a pandemic. What’s more, government officials in the U.S. and elsewhere allowed pharmaceutical manufacturers to complete their testing stages simultaneously, rather than using a step-by-step process that takes more time. Companies could do that because they had assurance that the government would pay for their research efforts and purchase large quantities of those vaccines that were shown to be safe.
Armed with information, we hope everyone can make the right move and get vaccinated. It’s the only way we’ll truly get COVID behind us once and for all.