Don't pan vaccines during a pandemic

Don't pan vaccines during a pandemic

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A story in today’s Pine Bluff Commercial is about a Jefferson County Sheriff’s office official who almost died from covid. When he woke up from a coma, he thought a few days had passed when actually it had been many weeks. His parents put their emphasis on praying for him, but the idea of having to think about a funeral was not far from their thoughts.

He was a healthy 31-year-old, but that didn’t seem to bother his infection one bit. His problem, he said, was that he had not taken the coronavirus seriously and, hence, had not gotten a vaccination. His story is one of victory, and he came home a hero of sorts after being released from the hospital. We are happy for him and for his parents and know that many in his circle of friends and co-workers are elated and relieved that he survived.

For him and them, there is much to be thankful for on this day of thanks. Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. said that, when other workers in his department saw what he had gone through, they stepped up to get their own vaccinations.

That’s a wonderful turn of events. It reminds us of what life was like a year ago. The word “terrified” comes to mind. A vaccination was on the horizon but was still many weeks away, and when it did roll out, not everyone, of course, was eligible. Consequently, it was additional weeks and weeks before the vaccinations were available for the average person. Until then, people were dying a alarming rates.

For the most part of this year, however, the shots have been available, and their efficacy — their ability to keep someone from getting seriously ill and dying, which is how this vaccine is supposed to work — is close to 100%.

And yet, we heard of a conversation just this past week in which one youngish woman said something to the effect that she would never “put that poison” in her body, the “poison” being the life-saving vaccine. Such is the weird place we find ourselves.

That place, however, apparently plays itself out in any number of ways in Arkansas, a state that ranks near the very bottom of states in terms of vaccination rates. The same goes for Jefferson County, which ranks toward the bottom of the state’s 75 counties in the percentage of residents who have been vaccinated.

Many people, like the sheriff’s office employee, have come away from a close call with covid, seen the error of their ways, and urged others to get the shots. In the meantime, however, hospital ICU beds fill with the unvaccinated, and health care professionals work themselves to exhaustion caring for people, who, had they gotten vaccinated, would very likely not be in the hospital or sick at all. And, of course, many of these unvaccinated never returned home.

Today is Thanksgiving. Compared to last Thanksgiving, society is in a much improved spot in terms of being able to survive covid. We wish that everyone would get the vaccination and we could put covid squarely in the rearview mirror by next Thanksgiving or sooner. But as that seems unlikely, we will just hope that enough people get the protection and slow the coronavirus’ ability to mutate and cause more deadly havoc.

Stay safe today.

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