OPINION: Please help

·4 min read

Jun. 10—The United States is unlikely to reach herd immunity in regard to the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that brought us COVID-19, the New York Times reports (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/03/health/covid-herd-immunity-vaccine.html). A virus that might be knocked out if we all agreed to step up will instead "most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers."

This is apparently acceptable to at least 20-24% of Kansas residents, based on information from the Department of Health and Human Services showing the share of adults who would "definitely" or "probably" get the vaccine or who have already been vaccinated.

This is so sad. We know people in the non-vaxxing group and some of them have unselfish reasons for not being vaccinated — but many don't. They just feel the vaccine won't help them and they don't care how it will help others.

Meanwhile, here are the latest COVID-19 statistics from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Kansas has had 315,500 COVID-19 cases to date, resulting in 10,849 hospitalizations and 5,103 statewide deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Barton County has had 51 deaths attributed to COVID-19 — two more since our last report on May 26. The death count for other area counties is: Ellsworth 25, Pawnee 14 (+1), Rice 12, Rush 14, Russell 28 (-1), and Stafford 9.

The most common SARS-CoV-2 variant, B.1.1.7, which originated in the United Kingdom, has been detected in every area county except Rush County.

Statewide, 1,251,351 Kansans — 43.0% of the total population — have been vaccinated with one dose and 36.5% of Kansans have completed the COVID-19 series. In Barton County, 41.53% of the people 12 years of age and older have been vaccinated with at least one dose and 37.38% have received the complete vaccine series.

The vaccine is now readily available but the number of vaccines administered is tapering off.

Non-vaxxers do not have to explain their reasons to anyone; they don't even have to share the fact that they haven't been vaccinated. Gov. Laura Kelly has stated she has no interest in COVID-19 vaccine passports.

Some have said, "You're free to wear a mask and/or get the vaccine if it makes you feel safe." What would really make us feel safe would be the eradication of COVID-19. Too bad that's not going to happen because so many people won't get the vaccine.

Consider this: the smallpox virus (variola virus) existed for thousands of years and killed an estimated 300 million people around the world in the 20th century. The first smallpox immunization was created by Edward Jenner in 1796. Even though about 30% of smallpox cases of the variola major type ended in death, it took years before there was a worldwide vaccination program to eradicate (eliminate) smallpox. The last natural outbreak of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949. After intensive vaccination campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s, the last case of wild smallpox in the world occurred in 1977. No cases of naturally occurring smallpox have happened since.

The number of COVID-19 cases is coming down in the United States. All sorts of precautions may have contributed to this, including asking people to stay at home when they are sick. But we can't MAKE people stay home. Some will always assert their right to come to the places where we work or congregate and spread their viruses without warning. We can't make them get the vaccine or stay away from the rest of us when they refuse.

We don't mind if those who haven't gotten the vaccine are offered a free meal or a lottery ticket if that will motivate them to do it. It's OK if those of us who have already gotten our shots don't get a prize. We have already received our reward. We have enjoyed peace of mind as we return to gatherings outside the home. We have the knowledge that we may have helped save lives — perhaps our own, perhaps a stranger's life — and helped reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2.