Guest columnist Lou Conover: Losing patience protecting the unvaccinated

  • A person draws out Moderna vaccine during a drive through COVID-19 vaccine clinic at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, on Sunday Jan. 2. Lars Hagberg /The Canadian Press via AP

Published: 1/14/2022 1:41:29 PM
Modified: 1/14/2022 1:40:38 PM

I’m beginning to lose patience. I’ve pretty much had it with mask mandates and social distancing. The scientific community has had a strong consensus from near the beginning of the pandemic that the purpose of wearing a mask and social distancing is less to protect the wearer and distancer than it is to protect the people around if that person has an asymptomatic infection. But then I have to wonder who I am actually protecting.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-response-reporting), as of Friday, Jan. 2, the number of people in the state who are fully vaccinated was 5,090,635. Of those, 179,594 have subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, a rate of 3.5%. That is, if you’re vaccinated there is a 3.5% chance that you will become infected with the virus. Of those that are vaccinated and test positive, 3.909 have been hospitalized, a rate of 0.08%. That is, among the vaccinated, 8 out of every 10,000 have subsequently been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The number of people in the state that have been vaccinated and then died with COVID-19 is 942, or approximately 18 out of every 100,000. The New England Journal of Medicine reports on a study in Israel (www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2115624) that found that those with booster shots are only one tenth as likely to die of COVID-19 as vaccinated people without booster shots, or about 2 out of 100,000. If you’re vaccinated, and especially if you’ve had a booster shot, you’re as safe as you can reasonably expect to be under any circumstances.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2019, 36,096 people died in motor vehicle accidents nationwide, which is approximately 11 people out of every 100,000, a figure in the same range as death from COVID-19 among the vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated, you’re as safe as you are driving on a road. Not no risk, but very low risk, which is that can be achieved.

There are people for whom the vaccine is not advised because of an underlying health problem, such as leukemia, but the number is quite small, and such individuals are at risk from a much larger set of problems than COVID-19, for which corresponding precautions are in place.

Vaccines are freely available to everyone in the United States over the age of 5. The people that we are protecting with our various safety measures like masks, social distancing, shutdowns, and closings are almost entirely those who choose not to be vaccinated, and I’m losing patience with them.

I don’t disagree with those who are opposed to mask or vaccination mandates. However, we must make sure that we don’t treat the unvaccinated as a protected class. At every level of society we should be free to discriminate against the unvaccinated.

Airlines should be able to deny tickets to the unvaccinated. Insurers should be able to deny coverage to the unvaccinated or charge a premium. Hospitals should put the unvaccinated at the end of the line when there aren’t enough beds. Businesses of all kinds should be able to deny entry to the unvaccinated. Schools should not admit unvaccinated students, just as they already do for other diseases.

I feel well protected from COVID-19. By getting vaccinated I’ve done what I need to do to protect myself, and I’ve done my civic duty to take the most effective action I can to avoid spreading the disease. I’m not putting the vaccinated at risk and I can’t protect fools from their foolishness. It’s time to get back to regular life.

Lou Conover lives in Amherst.


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