Vaccines: A surefire way to end a pandemic

Seventeen months ago, the country screeched to a halt. A novel coronavirus was spreading across the globe and had reached the United States, causing everything to shut down — seemingly over night. In the past 17 months, we’ve learned a lot — about the virus, pandemics in general, government stability, human decency and indecency, and ourselves.

Earlier this month, San Juan County reinstated its mask mandate, with the state following suit as of Monday. The concept of masking has become such a controversial subject — leading to physical violence in some recent instances.

The purpose of masks seems to still be misunderstood by the general public. The cloth masks worn by the general public are not meant to protect the wearer as much as those around the wearer. It keeps larger saliva particles containing the COVID virus from escaping the wearer’s nose and mouth and contaminating the air and surfaces around said, person.

You wear a mask to protect others from you.

Unless you take a COVID test every single day, you do not know whether you’re asymptomatically spreading the disease. So wearing a mask, even when you’re feeling fine is still best practice to protect your community.

Masking alone will not protect the community from the spread of COVID.

Each COVID precaution adds a level of defense against the virus — each alone will provide little protection — but following them all, we can expedite the return to normalcy.

The vaccine has been an even more controversial topic as of late. Proponents of the vaccine note its efficacy in protecting its recipients against severe illness in most cases. While, yes, there have been breakthrough cases — and even virus-cause deaths — among the fully vaccinated, the statistical probability of someone getting gravely ill or dying of COVID drops substantially in vaccinated persons.

In most places in the U.S., more than ninty percent of recent hospitalized COVID cases have been an unvaccinated person. Only 10% or fewer have been fully vaccinated. How one can look at the numbers and think the vaccine is doing nothing to protect its recipients is beyond me.

Globally, more than 4.4 million people have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began — more than 628,000 of those have been in the United States alone. That’s since the disease first landed stateside in January 2020.

As of Aug. 21, more than 170.4 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, a total of 51.3% of the population. As of July 11, 96% of the country’s physicians had been vaccinated against the

It is a well-known fact in the medical industry that no vaccine is 100% effective. The purpose of a vaccine is to make enough of the population invulnerable to a disease so that it cannot take hold, spread and mutate into a new vaccine-resistant strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped monitoring the number of breakthrough infections in May.

“As of May 1, 2021, CDC transitioned from monitoring all reported vaccine breakthrough cases to focus on identifying and investigating only hospitalized or fatal cases due to any cause. This shift will help maximize the quality of the data collected on cases of greatest clinical and public health importance,” the CDC website says.

In late July, KFF did a study of breakthrough cases. Half of the states in the country report some data on COVID-19 breakthroughs, according to the study. Twenty-four provide data on breakthrough cases in general and 19 on hospitalizations and deaths. Fifteen states update on a weekly basis, KFF explained.

Based on this information, KFF determined the rate of breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated is below 1% in all of the states keeping track. It ranges from 0.01% in Connecticut to 0.54% in Arkansas, according to the report.

Hospitalizations range from 0.00% in states like California, Indiana and Vermont to 0.06% in Arkansas (again). Death rates were even lower, KFF reported, 0.0% in all but two reporting states — Arkansas and Michigan — which were 0.01%. KFF noted the deaths may or may not have been due to COVID-19, that information is not provided by the state.

The vaccine works. While it doesn’t stop disease 100%, it was never meant to, but that doesn’t mean that you should just write it off.

In conjunction with maintaining social distancing, good hygiene, wearing masks and having the vaccine — we’re likely to eliminate this disease sooner rather than later. We may never truly see the end of COVID-19 entirely, but it’s likely that with these best practices we will see the end of the lockdowns and restrictions.