Just over a third of the country (and Hamilton County) has been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
Over the past five months, we have at various times explored why some people are uninterested in a vaccine, from those who are general vaccine skeptics to those who are afraid it will give them the virus (it won't) to those scared off by people who initially downplayed a vaccine for political reasons (such as the current president and vice president of the United States).
We reject those reasons and fully promote the vaccines that not only are medically safe but will return the country to a sense of normalcy it so desperately needs.
But a New York Times newsletter Tuesday brings us face to face with another reason many Americans may not have gotten a vaccine: They can't trust even the vaunted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to give them the truth.
The mask guideline of which the newspaper writes, issued last month by the Atlanta-based agency, announced that "less than 10 percent" of virus transmission was occurring outdoors.
To those who have have kept up with information about COVID-19 in an effort to protect themselves and their families, that was a jolt. Ten percent? So all this time when most everything they'd read said the potential for transmission outside was next to nothing, it was actually up to 10%?
According to NYT newsletter author David Leonhardt, some COVID transmission within enclosed spaces in Singapore apparently was misclassified as outside, and the CDC out of an abundance of caution put the mark for outdoor transmission at 10%.
In fact, epidemiologists told the author, the potential for outside transmission is less than 1% and may be below 0.1%. Not only that, but he writes "there is not a single documented COVID infection anywhere in the world from casual outdoor interactions, such as walking past someone on a street or eating at a nearby table."
This is the same CDC whose early coronavirus death models showed as many as 2.4 million Americans could die of the virus by October 2020. It's the same CDC that early on discouraged Americans from wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
It's the same CDC that posted that aerosol particles could transmit the virus and then fairly quickly took down that post. It's the same CDC which said at one point that people without symptoms of the virus probably don't need to get tested, even if they've been in close contact with an infected person.
We could go on, but you get the idea.
When Americans are bewildered by information coming from what is thought to be the world's most renown public health organization, they become skeptical about anything else the organization proffers. And the most prominent thing it has pushed for the last five months has been vaccines.
We look at it this way:
With the COVID-19 virus, the CDC was dealing with something it had never seen, with a pandemic unlike anything it had ever dealt with, with an information age that abhors a vacuum and with a panicked American public.
So mistakes would be and were made.
The agency had to weigh what it didn't know with the overall safety of Americans, so it frequently erred on the side of caution. The same was evidently true in last month's report mentioning outdoor transmission, but for those paying attention it was such an aberration from everything else they'd been hearing that it was jarring.
On the other hand, where the virus was an unknown quantity, the vaccines are not. Where the CDC was dealing with the implications of the virus in real time, it is dealing with vaccines whose efficacy has been tested and retested for months in the laboratories of some of the world's top pharmaceutical companies.
So we believe everyone can take to the bank the agency's guidance that "COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective" and, maybe more importantly, that "people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic."
Knowing those two facts, we grieve the numbers cited in this newspaper's Tuesday story — that a drive-through vaccination site offered by CHI Memorial Hospital at The Howard School on the last Saturday in April, tailored to the city's most vulnerable population, drew only 53 people when it was prepared for 1,000 vaccinations.
No one is going to force anyone to get a COVID-19 vaccination, but we believe the reasons for anyone beyond the confirmed skeptic not to have one have vanished. And if it was the convoluted information coming out of the CDC about the virus, put that aside. That was the unknown the agency was dealing with. Vaccinations are the known. They save lives — ours, our families' and those with whom we come in contact.
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