Better days are coming, hang in there

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

It’s not hard to see that the majority of frustration of folks around Chester County right now is difficulty in scheduling to get a COVID-19 vaccine — if you read social media, it’s everywhere and it is understandable. We’re hitting a wall, annoyed and tired of the pandemic and everything required to keep people safe.

It’s been a long year since we all found ourselves in a near lock down, and we’ve learned a lot, cried a lot (over the half million people we’ve lost here in the U.S.) and slowly adapted and learned — and have been able to resume a lot of activities. Wearing masks makes a big difference. Limiting (and better yet, pausing) indoor dining makes a big difference in terms of stopping the spread. And we’ve learned a lot of outdoor activities can be done safely.

Those arguing for opening everything up (citing bogus science, some of which is literally Russian disinformation), learned the hard way: where such foolish policies were put into place, new and more deadly strains of COVID emerged, putting all of us at increased risk.

It has been a tough, painful year for nearly everyone.

And yet, brighter days are on the horizon. We’re just months from things getting much better and most of our world reopening fully.

If you read social media sites in recent days, you also start to see more and more people announcing that they have an appointment — or that they got a shot or two shots. Yes, they’re still a bit like those daffodils pointing green shoots through the snow all over Chester County, but they’re there and more are showing up daily. The numbers tell the story, more shots are getting into arms every day — almost 3 million on Friday, nationally.

And yes, Pennsylvania’s Department of Health strangely decided to shortchange the collar counties of Philadelphia — despite those counties being among the best in the state in being ready to roll out and manage getting shots in arms. That seems to be in the process of being fixed, as both county officials and members of Chester County’s legislative delegation have been demanding both answers and an immediate change.

Between that, the roll out of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine and growing supplies of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, we should see a massive change in just a few more weeks in the dynamic in terms of vaccination: more vaccine than people who want to get it and are able to give it.

And the timing helps, too. As we learned last year, the virus doesn’t like sunlight. The more sunshine – and more people being outside — the harder it is for the virus to be transmitted. Combine that with a daily dropping percentage of people who are likely to contract the virus and we will see a real drop in infection rates as we work through April and get into May.

By year’s end, we should have the data to prove the vaccines are safe and effective for kids and be able to launch into a massive and speedy process to vaccinate those under 18.

The last hurdle will be not a shortage of vaccine for people who want it. By early May it seems likely that universe of people will be largely vaccinated, assuming we’re able to bring on enough resources — namely the people who will put those shots in arms.

The big issue will be those who will refuse to get vaccinated.

We’re going to need a combination of persuasion and yes, consequences. I suspect those who refuse to get vaccinated will not be allowed to attend professional sporting events, movies, concerts, fly commercially or go on a cruise. As there is precedent: with some exceptions, kids can’t attend schools without getting vaccines for a series of diseases. Colleges, too, also require certain vaccines.

I sense some businesses in “at will” employment states such as Pennsylvania, will let go employees who decline to get vaccinated, arguing that they need to protect co-workers and customers.

Because of all of this, the pressure will build for people to get vaccinated. There will be hold outs — there are still people who claim, wrongly, that vaccines for things like measles are dangerous. And yes, there are some immune-compromised people who cannot get vaccines (we’ll need to work out a waiver system for these people). Once we get to about 80% of the population vaccinated, the virus will have a tough time spreading and likely will be contained, if not ever entirely eliminated. 

It will pop up again in hot spots from time to time and we will likely need booster shots down the road to better handle the variants as they emerge, but it could well be built into our annual flu shots and become routine.

We really are at the beginning of the end, even if it seems hard to believe sometimes.

Hang in there, keep wearing your mask and when it is your turn, get the vaccination.

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