Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
The United States no longer has to stand by for a daily White House downplaying of the threat from COVID-19, promotion of fake cures, or encouragement to get a bleach injection. That's a good thing. So is the increased availability of vaccines that, though a long way from herd immunity, may be playing a significant role in preventing the United States from seeing a real "fourth wave" of cases.
Last November, researchers at the National Institutes of Health produced a study that now seems eerily prescient. Based on the idea that vaccines could be 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, and that these vaccines would also reduce transmission, they modeled the effect in the U.S. of achieving 40 percent vaccination of the total population. The researchers concluded that the rate of new cases could be almost cut in half, the burden on ICUs greatly reduced, and the number of deaths drastically cut back well in advance of hitting the kind of numbers usually associated with herd immunity.
With 40.9 percent of Americans now having received at least one dose, that effect could be preventing a surge in the United States right now. We're only now reaching the levels where that effect is significant, but as the vaccine numbers go up, the possibility of a return to normal draws ever nearer. The math and science shows that every American who gets a vaccination is taking a step that benefits the whole nation.
But what if you don't believe in science? Or math? Or doing anything that helps someone else? In that case, look no further than the advice being offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-is for Russia) who is doing his best to keep vaccine hesitancy high.
While some very smart people were working out the benefits of vaccination and healthcare workers all over the nation were working to turn these numbers into reality, there has continued to be a cadre of Republicans who have undercut the vaccination effort. And with Trump reduced to sideline player, the biggest in-office source of pro-death propaganda may be the Kremlin favorite, Johnson.
As Forbes reports, Johnson has declared himself "highly suspicious" of the "big push to get everyone vaccinated." Part of this appears to be back to that not understanding math thing. Johnson has argued that because the vaccine is 95 percent effective, that means "only a limited number" of people really need to be infected. How that works in Johnson's head is unclear, and no one really wants to go in there, but however this is supposed to work, it doesn't.
Johnson then went on to encourage young people not to get vaccinated, and pushed back against the use of any sort of vaccine passport to protect public safety, calling it "a very freedom-robbing step."
Johnson then turned to the ultimate basis of all Republican policy: selfishness. "If you have a vaccine quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?" said Johnson said. "What is it to you? You've got a vaccine and science is telling you it's very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?"
The Republican Party no longer has a platform beyond "Obey Trump," but if they were adding planks, "I've got mine, why the hell should I care about anything else?" would certainly be high on the list. Only it shouldn't be surprising that Johnson has this thing completely upside down.
If he, and other Republican "thought" leaders like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson are really so set against getting a vaccine, what they should be doing is telling everyone else to get vaccinated.
Right now, 43 percent of Republicans are saying "no" to the vaccine. All over the country, red counties are finding themselves with a vaccine surplus. Whole states like Georgia, Mississippi and Montana are pondering what to do about wasted vaccines and unfilled vaccine appointment calendars (Hint: Send them to communities of color, where demand is high). Unless that number goes down, it would take near perfect participation from every other American adult to reach the lowest threshold for herd immunity. And what herd immunity does is protect the people who did not get vaccinated.
By discouraging everyone from getting vaccinated, the people Ron Johnson is most putting at risk are his Republican followers. Which makes it tempting to adopt a Johnson-esque attitude and just sort of … snicker. However, these are human lives on the line. And in addition to Republican vaccine conspiracy theorists, in every community there are a small number of people who legitimately cannot get vaccinated. That can be due to very specific allergies, or to immune system issues. Those people are protected when the population reaches herd immunity, because the disease is no longer readily spread within the community. Efforts of bozos like Johnson also put those people at risk.
It's important to counter the lies spread by Johnson, Greene, Carlson, and others, and to encourage the maximum number of people possible to get vaccinated. That protects the people who can't get vaccinated, and it helps to protect everyone from having millions of lingering infections that kick out new, ever more resistant, variants. More effort needs to be put into public campaigns to push or pull people to get vaccinated.
But looking at it from Vladimir Putin's point of view, convincing people not to get vaccinated does make America weaker. So … good job, Ron.
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