Don't wait, vaccinate

Nearly two years since the global pandemic began, the newest variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been detected in the United States. 

We are still learning about omicron, the most recent variant first discovered in South Africa. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have classified it as a Variant of Concern. Due to its early detection, it is still unclear if this variant is more severe than the original coronavirus or if it’s more transmissible. According to both organizations, while there is concern about omicron, the delta variant is still the most predominant strain of COVID-19.

As we prepare to head into 2022, it probably seems like eternity since March 2020 when our state and our country began to deal with this pandemic. It’s been going on so long, in fact, that for many of us it has become a dull roar in the background. The daily report of infected individuals doesn’t seem to phase many of us anymore, even though nearly 20 percent of Wyoming residents have been infected with the coronavirus at this point. 

The number of people in the state who have died from the disease, meanwhile, is nearing a total of 1,500. That’s nearly the population of Saratoga and more than the population of Riverside, or Encampment or any other municipality in Carbon County other than Rawlins. Nationwide, total is at 777,000. To put that into perspective, approximately 407,000 Americans died in World War II. 

According to the CDC, as of September 2021 unvaccinated individuals were 5.8 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than those who were vaccinated. Additionally, those who had not been vaccinated were 14 times more at risk of dying due to COVID-19 than those who had been vaccinated. 

In Wyoming, a total of 246 vaccinated individuals were hospitalized with the coronavirus, compared to 1,416 unvaccinated individuals. Meanwhile, 518 unvaccinated Wyoming residents died due to the coronavirus compared to 110 who had been vaccinated. In Carbon County, three residents who had been vaccinated died from COVID-19 compared to 18 unvaccinated residents.

While some may believe the infections and deaths of those who have been vaccinated somehow invalidates the effectiveness of the vaccine, the truth is no vaccine has ever been 100 percent effective. According to WHO, because vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection, breakthrough cases of a virus will occur. As more people get vaccinated, however, fewer people will come in contact with the virus.

But as we see more and more variants of the coronavirus, it puts those who have been vaccinated at risk of a breakthrough case. As of November 29, Wyoming’s vaccine rate has essentially plateaued with only 42 percent of the state’s residents having received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Carbon County trails at 39.68 percent. 

Unfortunately, the original goal with the vaccinations—herd immunity—doesn’t appear to be likely in the near future. At least not in the way we’ve come to think of herd immunity with other viruses, such as measles. According to a September 13, 2021 article from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (“Rethinking Herd Immunity and the Covid-19 Response End Game”), we have reached a point with the coronavirus in which we may not eradicate the virus. Instead, what we will likely see is the virus continue to circulate until a vast number of people have been exposed to the virus rather than vaccinated.

That being said, getting vaccinated is still the best response to the coronavirus and is the best way to decrease the worst impacts of the virus. It is important to remember that a number of people, don’t recover within two weeks to a month. Many experience what are known as “long covid” symptoms which include continued shortness of breath, joint and muscle pain, and even memory or concentration issues. In some cases, vaccines have helped with the long covid symptoms.

As of December 3, there have been a total of 2,791 lab confirmed cases in Carbon County since the pandemic began and 44 deaths. With a total population of 15,247, one can assume nearly everyone in the county has known someone who has either been infected with or died from the coronavirus.

Please, if you can, get vaccinated.


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