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Stop the excuses, step up, get vaccinated

Our nation is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases the likes of which has not been seen since last winter's alarming numbers. And, if trends continue, it will surpass that wave. Assessing data from the Department of Health and Human Services, the New York Times reports that one in five intensive care units now reach or exceed 95% capacity, with field hospitals again appearing in some communities.

Techniques for treating COVID have improved significantly since the initial outbreak in early 2020, but when hospitals are overwhelmed, the standard of care suffers, and deaths can increase. Plus, other medical procedures are delayed, diminishing overall care and contributing to needless suffering.

This did not have to happen.

If more people would get vaccinated against the virus the severe cases leading to hospitalizations would drop dramatically. This is why The Day is joining editorial boards at newspapers across the country in collectively urging the reluctant and the procrastinators to get vaccinated. "The Last Best Shot" campaign is the initiative of the Boston Globe.

It is no coincidence that the states with the lowest vaccination rates are seeing the most dramatic spikes in hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccine hesitancy is most pronounced in conservative-leaning southern states. Texas recorded the most COVID-19 deaths over the past week with 361, Florida was second with 277 deaths, Louisiana third with 234 deaths and Missouri next, 215 deaths.

Connecticut has seen increases in confirmed cases and hospitalizations, too, but not as severe. That is due to a relatively high vaccination rate of 65%. But that is not good enough. We can do much better.

The family of Mark Gendron, a retired state trooper, is urging you to get vaccinated. As described in the recent story by Day Staff Writer Elizabeth Regan, Mark and his wife Christina waited, wanting greater assurances about the safety of the three vaccines available. They waited too long, both contracting the virus, with Mark becoming severely ill and hospitalized for weeks. He remains so, struggling to survive and facing long-term health consequences if he does.

True, the Delta variant has been infecting even the fully vaccinated, but the odds of the vaccinated getting ill are extremely low, with current data showing only .01% of those breakthrough infections causing significant symptoms. The spike in severe cases, and the resulting hospitalizations and deaths, is a crisis of the unvaccinated.

Some will never get the vaccine. They are beyond the reach of rational argument, often anti-science or have — oddly — made vaccine refusal a stand for freedom. But a great number remain persuadable. In a sliver of good news, vaccination rates are again climbing after leveling off for months, with about 700,000 new doses administered every day.

Excuses for not getting vaccinated include concerns the vaccines were approved too quickly. While the process was expedited, the Food and Drug Administration assessed results from tens of thousands of volunteers before giving approval, in line with past vaccine authorizations. Since then, nearly 170 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with no widespread ill effects found.

And, no, the vaccines do not alter your DNA, or cause infertility, and no microchips are inserted to track you.

The young and healthy will contend they are better off trusting their natural immune systems. They feel secure that severe cases are far more likely among the old and those with health problems.

This is misguided thinking on a couple of counts.

Since the Delta variant became the dominant strain, hospital personnel report they are seeing more severely ill patients in their 20s through 50s, rather than the elderly domination previously seen.

This thinking also misses the point that getting vaccinated is as much about protecting others as it is about protecting yourself. Do you really want to take the chance of getting someone else sick? Do you want to help the virus persist and potentially mutate into more dangerous and vaccine-adverse forms?

So, if you don't want to get the shots for yourself, get them for the community.

This is a long fight. The CDC is expected to soon recommend a third, booster shot for those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Evaluation of whether another shot is needed for those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine continues.

If you are not yet fully vaccinated, it is time to step up. If you are fully vaccinated, try to respectfully persuade an unvaccinated family member to end their holdout. This may be our last best shot at getting the pandemic back under control.

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, 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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