By Lance Chilton
Our home-town newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, reports almost daily on the toll of the coronavirus in New Mexico, often accompanying the raw statistics with information about the vaccination status of those who test positive for COVID-19.
I am probably preaching to the choir about this, as Democrats are way out in front of members of that other party in getting immunized, but a quick reading of the Journal articles might deceive readers into thinking that vaccines are ineffective. That is most definitely not the case (someone has noted that if the entire population were vaccinated, all cases would be among the vaccinated). Using the Journal’s and the New York Times’ statistics and population data, I calculate that unvaccinated people are 9.4 times more likely to have a case of COVID, 14.7 times more likely to have been in the hospital on December 1, and 15.8 times more likely to have died in the last 28 days.
These figures are proof that the vaccines work! We don’t expect seatbelts or drunk driving laws to prevent all vehicle fatalities; we don’t expect exercise to prevent all heart attacks. Let’s get the other 26% of New Mexico adults immunized! If everyone had received the vaccine, we’d have had 20,145 fewer cases and 123 fewer deaths due to COVID in the month of November, and a remarkable 506 hospital beds per day around the state would have been freed up for all the other people who need them.
As Omicron rears its ugly head, we can’t yet know how ugly that head will be compared to its cousin, Delta. Will it cause more severe disease, will it be more infectious, will it escape prevention and treatment with current vaccines and medications? As of this writing, the answers seem to be no, yes, and maybe. Everyone from Pretoria to Atlanta will be looking for answers; in the meantime, alongside that Christmas goose, convince your recalcitrant relatives and friends to do all they can to avoid Delta and Omicron.
Vaccine opposition has been with us ever since Edward Jenner developed a smallpox vaccine more than two centuries ago. It’s usually been a fringe phenomenon, but it has been amplified by prominence on social media and by getting mixed up in the polarized politics of the present. It’s a shame that my friend’s daughter can’t get the brain cancer surgery she needs due to the hospitals being filled with unvaccinated, only-maybe repentant COVID sufferers. It’s a shame that people who have difficulty fighting infections must worry daily about exposures to people who are infected and didn’t need to be.