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A war footing to defeat the COVID virus

The Day calls on elected leaders, public health officials and business leaders to do everything possible within constitutional and legal parameters to stop the spread of the coronavirus and avoid further backsliding that could again lead to limits on social gatherings and even shutdowns.

In some fields that should require full vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. Those fields include work in convalescent homes and assisted-living facilities, hospitals, and public schools.

It defies logic that those working with the elderly and the sick, known to be most vulnerable to infection, would refuse vaccinations that have proven safe and that protect the individual and the people they encounter from severe illness.

As for schools, children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive the vaccines because clinical trials of their use in children continue. Students 12 and older can and should be vaccinated, but cannot be compelled. Teachers and other educators should therefore be required to get the vaccine to protect themselves and unvaccinated students.

Other businesses should consider providing employees the choice of receiving the vaccination or being the subject of frequent testing. At the very least, workers in close contact with others should be wearing masks, particularly when there is a mixing of the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

We recognize that tougher rules to encourage increased vaccination rates, and requiring proof of vaccination to participate in some activities, will face strong pushback from those who see such demands as impinging personal liberty.

But freedom is never absolute. Drivers are required to obey traffic lights and other rules. These may impede a person’s ability to get to their destination as quickly as possible — including a person willing to take the risk of speeding through an intersection — but they are accepted as necessary to protect others.

Likewise, vaccine and mask-wearing requirements are necessary not only to protect the individual, but to protect everyone, and ultimately to bring this viral outbreak under control.

Irrational opposition to vaccination is why our nation continues to suffer needlessly. Had a higher portion of Americans received the vaccine when they had the opportunity, COVID-19 could have well been brought under control before the more contagious Delta variant took hold.

Higher vaccination rates remain the solution. Yes, “breakthrough” infections of the vaccinated are happening more frequently with the Delta variant, but they remain the exception, with serious illness rarer still, and deaths among the vaccinated almost non-existent.

Discouraging vaccinations is continued disinformation, the bulk of it coming from unreliable social media sources filled with false fears and baseless warnings about the vaccines. In a New York Times guest essay, Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services under President Donald Trump, writes, “Any claims that the vaccines are unsafe or ineffective, or that corners were cut, are not true.”

Azar directed the Trump administration’s successful Operation Warp Speed program to develop vaccines and get the pandemic under control. Ironic, then, that as of mid-July, 43% of Republicans said that they had not been vaccinated and definitely or probably wouldn’t be, versus only 10% of Democrats. This nonsensical political divide has contributed to the inability to get COVID-19 under control and why mandates are needed.

There is no reason to remain unvaccinated, stated Trump’s vaccine czar.

“We made sure that there was no compromise on safety by conducting some of the largest and most extensive vaccine clinical trials ever,” Azar states. The resulting vaccines “produced remarkable protection against COVID-19 and were extremely safe.”

He also shoots down the argument the vaccines can’t be trusted because they are under emergency-use authorization. Full approval will require more time to evaluate long-term safety. But one only has to look at the hundreds of millions of doses with relatively few problems to find “real-world evidence of their safety and efficacy,” he writes.

Mixed messages and missteps by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have contributed to the public’s confusion. Its announcement in May that the fully vaccinated no longer had to wear masks was based on solid science but misjudged human behavior. It sent the unintended signal the crisis was over. Urgency to get vaccinated waned and the unvaccinated also stopped mask wearing, helping the arrival and spread of the Delta variant.

When it reversed course last week and reinstated mask-wearing recommendations, the CDC did not provide the evidence why — the Delta strain is as contagious as chickenpox, can spread even among the fully vaccinated, and poses the threat of further mutations that could evade vaccines. Instead that vital information leaked out to the press days later.

The bottom line is the nation has to be on the equivalent of a war footing to defeat this virus. Wars require compromises of personal liberty — including drafts and rationing. True patriots should be ready to contribute to winning this battle.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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