Georgia: Herd immunity means Kamala too

We must begin to believe each other on all sides of the political spectrum or we risk another wave of COVID-19. The "Delta" variant is coming.

Vice President Kamala Harris made (yet another) trip to Atlanta Friday, to promote vaccinations in Georgia.

Unfortunately for Georgia, vaccinations have largely stalled at 52.8% for a single dose, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, citing CDC data, compared with a national average of 64%.

Georgia is nearly 12% below the national average for a single dose, and nearly 10% behind the nation for fully vaccinated adults. Just under 35% of Georgia adults have received a full vaccination.

Worse, people are simply not going to get their jabs. COVID-19 vaccines have a shelf-life, and Georgia has had to decline more than 3 million doses from its federal allocation because we simply aren’t using them. The AJC reports that “tens of thousands” of doses of the J&J single shot vaccine are “in danger of expiring.”

I realize some people are simply scared of getting the vaccine. They read some of the news reports of side effects and people getting sick after getting their jab. They read reports of blood clots, and others getting COVID-19 despite getting one or two shots.

People on the left don’t believe the vaccines are safe because they were rushed in “Operation Warp Speed” by President Trump, who also championed things like hydrochloroquine and sunlight in your veins as a disinfectant. People on the right believe the vaccines are part of a left-wing plot to force everyone to submit in fear to an all-powerful government, or to wear masks forever. Some believe that the vaccines are the Mark of the Beast.

Nobody wants to believe the other side. Nobody wants to believe or give any credit to “them.” Meanwhile, the virus has not gone away. Since the beginning, 1.11 million Georgians have gotten COVID-19, which is 10.3% of the state’s population. We don’t know how much immunity having the virus gives those sufferers: Is it three months, six months, a year?

We know that there’s a “Delta” variant ravaging India, and other parts of the world right now. Like the original SARS-CoV-2, the new variant will reach our shores, and it will spread around the country. The good news is that our current vaccines appear to offer significant protection from the new variant. The Wall Street Journal cites data suggesting the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization.

The bad news is that the new variant could still make you sick. That is, if you get it. The more unvaccinated people there are, the higher the possibility you’ll get exposed. Even with 10% of the population having been infected with the original virus, there’s a definite possibility those who are unvaccinated but have already suffered COVID-19 could be reinfected by the variant.

The New York Times reported in May that the Brazilian “P.1” variant could infect people who already had the original virus.

Now three studies offer a sobering history of P.1’s meteoric rise in the Amazonian city of Manaus. It most likely arose there in November and then fueled a record-breaking spike of coronavirus cases. It came to dominate the city partly because of an increased contagiousness, the research found.

But it also gained the ability to infect some people who had immunity from previous bouts of Covid-19. And laboratory experiments suggest that P.1 could weaken the protective effect of a Chinese vaccine now in use in Brazil.

We do know one thing about viruses, from years of dealing with the flu. Viruses change over time. They mutate quickly and morph into new functional categories. The P.1. variant appears to be more contagious than the original. The “Delta” variant also seems to be more easily spread.

If we want to protect ourselves from another wave, another round of lockdowns, another year of virtual school, and endless mask wearing, we need to, at some point soon, realize that herd immunity requires us to acknowledge people on the other side of the political spectrum.

Vice President Harris is here to encourage us, the ones who haven’t gotten our shots, to get vaccinated. Fortunately for me, I and my wife both have had our shots (me, the J&J; her, Pfizer, both shots). But we have two boys under 12, and they have not been vaccinated. And if under 40% of Georgians have been vaccinated in total, our chance of being exposed to the “Delta” (or the “P.1.” or some other) variant are fairly high.

I haven’t worn a mask for the past three weeks, except when absolutely required by the place I’m visiting. I may find myself having to mask up again if we see another spike. I’m not willing to bet against that happening if the vaccination rates don’t increase. In fact, at this point I’d bet it will happen if we don’t get closer to herd immunity.

There are other, political, reasons why the Vice President is here in Georgia. There’s the watered-down voting act that Stacey Abrams has endorsed—which ironically is practically the same as Georgia’s voting reform act but because it’s from Washington Democrats, it’s just better. There’s the opportunity to grandstand on race and to paint Republicans as racists. Fair enough. Politics is a contact sport, and Harris is as much a cold-eyed glutton for power as any Democrat whose prime doctrine is raw ambition.

But on the one subject of vaccination, conservatives, Republicans, Trumpists, and everyone in Georgia has to agree with her. We need to believe in some things that transcend politics. COVID-19, and the new variants don’t care who you voted for, and the virus doesn’t care about your politics. The vaccines don’t care if you’re Black, white, Asian, Democrat or Republican, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or atheist. We are all in the same herd, and we all need each other to get vaccinated.

Vice President Harris is worth listening to in this regard. Join the herd and get your shot, before we face another round of pandemic. We could be out of the woods soon, but only if we ignore politics and reach herd immunity. There’s literally no reason we can’t do this.

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