ILLINOIS — Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to another cheery edition of Thursday Thoughts with TJ. This week I thought I might write about April Fools' Day, or the return of baseball, or why people seem to trust bunnies when bunnies are clearly deceptive little demons out to ruin us all.
Instead, I figured it might be a good time to talk about COVID-19. Excited? Me, neither. But, there's a good reason to write this now. That's because on April 5, just 12 short days from now, Illinois residents without health insurance will no longer be able to receive federally funded COVID-19 vaccines. (You can read all about that by following this link to Patch's article on the topic.)
"But, TJ," you say, "haven't most people already received at least one dose of the vaccine?" Why, yes. Yes they have. In fact, 71.75 percent of people in Will County have received at least one dose, and 65.77 percent are considered "fully vaccinated," according to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Overall in the U.S., 76.8 percent of people have received at least one dose, and 65.4 are considered "fully vaccinated," according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those numbers are good, but not great. And with the elimination of federal funding for some of our most vulnerable citizens, the numbers seem unlikely to go up anytime soon.
As an aside, you may notice the use of "fully vaccinated" there in quotes. That's because I regrettably acknowledge, along with many of you, that COVID-19 may now never fully go away. One cannot be "fully vaccinated" against the cold or the flu, and, sadly, this may now be the case with COVID-19; however, now is not the time to give in to apathy and just walk around in our daily lives ignoring the stark reality that taking a laissez-faire attitude on COVID-19 vaccines can, and most certainly will, lead to more unnecessary deaths, of which there have been 971,212 in the U.S., according to the CDC, and 6.1 million deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
"But, TJ," you say, "wouldn't those who want to be vaccinated have already done so? Isn't it kinda' on them at this point if they get sick and die?" Well, that's a harsh question. And the answer is: No, not really.
See, there's been a lot — and by "a lot," I mean "A LOT" — of misinformation about the effects of virus, the efficacy of the vaccines, the motivation behind political and scientific leaders to push for vaccinations, and, just generally, anything at all related to COVID-19. I can understand some of that. Many people are just plain tired of hearing about it, would rather not be reminded about it, and are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for it all to go away.
One of the messages that's been pushed to us over the past two years is that we don't just get the vaccines for ourselves; rather, we get the vaccines to help protect the ones we love. And that's not fake news.
Getting vaccinated is neither a completely selfish nor altruistic gesture. We can, and should, be vaccinated — as fully as can be expected, anyway — because we place value in human life. It's really that simple.
"But, TJ," you say,"what about my individual rights? Why shouldn't I choose what's best for me?" Well, that's a complicated question. One could make the argument that individual liberties are sacrosanct, though I might be inclined to argue that is more of an argument for anarchy, which ultimately would result in the loss of liberty for almost everyone. Not a particularly great outcome.
So, as long as we can agree that anarchy is off the table, then as long as one chooses to be a part of society, one must adhere to certain rules to keep that society safe (or, at least, as safe as it can be). Some of those rules apply specifically to matters of public health. Aside from the obvious moral and ethical imperatives, there are also economical reasons for this that we all witnessed first-hand during the earlier stages of the pandemic. Remember when many businesses were forced to close, first because of the initial wave of trying to contain the virus, and later because of the lack of workers to run those businesses? Well, I'm sure we can all agree that we don't want to see that happen on that scale again.
And this is where it all ties together: Please, please, if you have friends, neighbors, loved ones, especially if they do not have health insurance, please spread the word to help them get vaccinated. Remember, in just 12 short days, those without health insurance will be facing a much bigger hill to climb to help get us all out of this mess. Please, do it for yourself, and do it for the ones you hold most dear. If you can do that, dear readers, then I promise next week I'll write about something more cheerful, like April Fools' Day, baseball or why we should NOT trust bunnies.
May the Force be with you, always!