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Two Americas

I hate to say this, but the U.S. — and the world — are becoming divided into two classes of people: the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The figures are clear, and they are becoming worse. For vaccinated people, coronavirus infections are decreasing, nearly disappearing. The vaccines aren’t perfect — a small percentage of those who’ve been vaccinated do get infected. The vaccines have been shown to offer decent protection against new viral strains besides the original COVID-19 variant. For vaccinated people the pandemic isn’t entirely over, but their chances of getting sick, being hospitalized or dying of COVID are very much lower than they were a few months ago.

For unvaccinated people it’s totally different. Their situation is a lot worse. For them in most places in America rates of infection, hospitalization and death are pretty much the same as they were in 2020. They are more susceptible to the new virus strains that are especially contagious. Put in the starkest terms, their chances of becoming ill and dying are almost as bad as they were at the height of the pandemic.

How is it, then, that the CDC has revised its national guidelines for mask wearing? The main reason is because 50% of the U.S. population is now vaccinated, and when the CDC counts statistics they do it for the nation as a whole. They don’t do separate counts depending on whether or not people are vaccinated. And the CDC isn’t immune to political pressure.

Some states do keep track of this, however. In Washington State, 10 times as many unvaccinated people over 65 are dying of COVID than vaccinated, and the death rates are higher for younger people as well. Pennsylvania doesn’t keep these kinds of statistics. The main reason a few vaccinated people have still gotten sick is that they have underlying conditions that weaken their immune systems, or they got the shot too late, when they were already infected.

Unfortunately, it’s also true that unvaccinated people are less likely to wear masks, and more likely to participate in large, unmasked gatherings. If they are at all safer, it’s thanks to the vaccinated people who won’t transmit infection to them. In Lycoming County, 34% of the population are fully vaccinated, so unvaccinated people can thank those who endured sore arms from their shots. We all know about unvaccinated, maskless people who have become angry at those wearing masks, but in fact those with masks are actually protecting those who won’t wear them.

Of course everyone has the freedom to decide whether or not they want to get the shot. Those who don’t, however, should know that their decision doesn’t just affect themselves. They are relying on the medical workers who will risk their lives to take care of them when they need it. They are also relying on everyone who pays for medical insurance, since the costs of their care aren’t born just by unvaccinated people like them.

For vaccinated people, coronavirus isn’t one hundred percent gone, but they are a lot safer. For unvaccinated people the pandemic is not over. By any means.

DR. ARNO VOSK

Williamsport

Submitted via Virtual Newsroom

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