Editorial: Biden’s vaccine goal of 70% by July 4 could pass us by, and we have no one to blame but ourselves
It wasn't long ago people asked for COVID-19 vaccines, and some even went so far as to lie about their age to get the vaccines that were in demand but not readily available - back when they were by age The elders first. Now the country is in a very different, opposite, dilemma in which there are many vaccines but not enough willing people waving their arms to get them. The concern is so great that governments, including Marylands, and corporations are trying to lure people in with incentives like food, cash, and lottery winnings.
The country has seen a slowdown in vaccination demand due to hesitation and distrust of vaccines, so President Joe Biden may not have met his goal of at least 70% of eligible people receiving at least one dose by July 4th The country administered fewer than 1 million shots a day, down more than two-thirds from a high of 3.4 million a day in April, according to analysis by the Washington Post. At that rate, 4.2 million adults a week need to get a first shot to hit the president's mark.
The numbers vary greatly depending on the location and politics. In liberal Maryland, half of all residents, not just eligible, were fully vaccinated, and 72% of those over 18 had received at least one dose by Monday. In the conservative Mississippi, however, only 26% of residents are fully vaccinated.
We cannot ignore the role of former President Donald Trump in this regard and its ongoing impact. A recent Gallop poll found that 24% of Americans plan never to get vaccinated; 46% of them are Republicans, 31% Independent and only 6% Democrats.
We can't help but wonder what those numbers would be like if the virus and vaccine hadn't become such a political football. As new variants hit the market in the US, those who have not had the coronavirus and who have developed natural immunity are at greater risk of developing serious illnesses who are not vaccinated. We ask these people to think about the risk of death and long-term complications for themselves and others. We also have compassion for those who have real fears and suspicions about the medical system of all political stripes. We urge them to look at the number of people who died from the vaccine compared to the virus. The virus is much more frightening.
As a country, we cannot give up trying to convince the unconvinced or to change the mind of the skeptics. This means that each of us who knows someone who hesitates has to do our part to induce a change of heart. Trusted proxies and church leaders are needed to reach suspicious people, be it a church leader or the wise elder of a neighborhood.
Public health officials also need to work on more innovative ways to reach those who do not have syringes. Maryland is in the process of closing many of its mass coronavirus vaccination sites across the state over the next six weeks, and moving resources to smaller, more targeted clinics. This is the right way. If the people don't come to them, they have to go to the people. And make sure that the incentives come from companies too.
Sure, we want people to do the right thing on their own, but some people need a little nudge and that's fine. The White House also took an initiative to offer free childcare to those receiving the syringes, and pharmacies will stay open later to take in more people. It's going to be a tough sell. The Gallup poll found that many people had made their decision and wanted to hold on to their decision. If we want to make a dent in these numbers, then through targeted public relations.
Of course, if the July 4th deadline has passed and the magic number has not yet been reached, that doesn't mean the vaccine efforts have failed or will stop. Efforts must continue until we achieve herd immunity or until we risk another outbreak and loss of lives. Life seems to be back to normal when people venture back to restaurants, beaches, and unmasked summer vacations. In reality, the virus is still endangering too many lives. In fact, although cases and hospital stays have generally decreased, people are still dying. And every single loss is a loss to our country. The pandemic isn't over and it won't be until we all do our part.
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