With safe and effective vaccines starting to be distributed, the public can see light at the end of the very long and dark COVID-19 tunnel. Not so fast, our moral betters are starting to say.
In recent days, as people start to benefit from the modern medical miracle of a vaccine developed within a year, so-called experts are lining up to warn people against thinking that they can begin to resume normal activity soon.
“Just because you get vaccinated with that second dose does not mean you should be participating in things like traveling in the middle of an out-of-control pandemic or that you’re liberated from masks,” Vin Gupta, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said on MSNBC. “Everything still applies until all of us hit the two-dose regimen, and we don’t think that’s going to happen until June/July.”
Similar warnings are starting to proliferate in the scaremongering news media.
Even now, many of the restrictions on activity are arbitrary, and often, the most sanctimonious leaders are the ones caught abusing their own draconian measures. Schools remain closed in much of the country despite a mountain of evidence showing that children have low odds of getting seriously ill or widely spreading the virus, and that remote learning is having a devastating impact on educational and emotional development, particularly among the least privileged.
To be clear, there is no doubt that we are now in a difficult stage of the pandemic, with outbreaks throughout the nation and a daily death toll of around 3,000 people. It is conceivable that we’ll end up with a half-million COVID-19 deaths by the time vaccination has become widespread.
But we will be in a much different place a few months from now. Based on the commitments already made and the expected speed of distribution, it is anticipated that roughly 100 million members of the public will be able to be vaccinated in this country by the end of March. That should be more than enough to offer protection to the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.
There are about 50 million people aged 65 years and older, and that group has accounted for about 80% of coronavirus deaths. So, not only should there be enough doses to vaccinate everybody in this group as well as medical workers in the coming months, but there will still be tens of millions of more doses available to administer to those under 65 who have some sort of health condition that leaves them more vulnerable to the disease.
On top of that, there are tens of millions of people who have already had COVID-19, and over a million a week are getting it. That means in addition to the 100 million vaccinated by spring, there will be millions of others who have developed antibodies from having survived the virus.
By the end of March, the worst of winter will be over, and most parts of the country will start to see warmer weather.
None of this means COVID-19 will be eradicated or that we will have achieved herd immunity. But it does mean that, barring any setbacks in vaccination, the virus should cease by April to be the danger it was when the whole country was shut down.
If we flashback to March, the original justification for draconian lockdown orders was that it was necessary to flatten the infection curve so there wasn’t a huge spike at any given time sufficient to overwhelm the medical system. Severe restrictions persisted well beyond that, and the justification was that the disease still posed too much risk to older and vulnerable populations.
If the older and vulnerable are vaccinated by the spring, however, there is absolutely zero reason to justify maintaining public restrictions until everybody gets vaccinated, a process that could spill into the fall or later.
If you take 100 million of the most vulnerable people out of the equation, the fatality rate will plunge, and the virus will start to resemble the seasonal flu in its effects, which we endure without shutdowns.
Political leaders keep shifting the goal posts on COVID-19. It was about flattening the curve. It was about slowing the spread. It was about protecting the most vulnerable. Now that we have a vaccine that carries the promise of protecting the most vulnerable within months, the goal post must not be allowed to shift again to universal vaccination.