Everyone wants to be done with the devastating medical, social and economic consequences of this pandemic. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that the virus that causes Covid-19 is ever going away. The question is how we can successfully mitigate its presence and move on.
Early in the pandemic we hoped that Covid-19 would disappear. Nineteen months into the pandemic, however, the virus hasn’t disappeared but has progressively mutated into increasingly more infectious variants. It is quite likely that everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated will ultimately be infected with Covid-19. (By comparison, prior to the development of a measles vaccine it was believed that up to 98 percent of the population became infected.)
Remarkably, we have the opportunity to choose our path forward. With the introduction of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines we can choose from two options—vaccine-induced immunity or the immunity conferred by infection. One clearly is a more difficult road.
By every marker, the risk of death and complications for the unvaccinated who contract the virus overshadows the risks of vaccination. Additionally, while the vaccines are not 100-percent protective, those vaccinated who become infected have milder illnesses. Greater than 90 percent of the country’s current hospitalizations and deaths have occurred in unvaccinated individuals.
While the rapid development of an effective vaccine should be celebrated, our evolving understanding of the virus coupled with the ease with which disinformation can be disseminated has instead undermined popular confidence in scientific messaging.
Given the advantages of vaccine induced immunity, however, the overwhelming majority of U.S. health care workers have chosen this path. At the Salinas Valley Medical Clinic and Montage Medical Group, 166 physicians have opted for and strongly encourage vaccination for their patients.
We will ultimately get past this—the question is how many unnecessary lives will be lost because we took the more difficult path.