Reaching herd immunity may hinge on departisanizing COVID-19 vaccination efforts

Reaching herd immunity may hinge on departisanizing COVID-19 vaccination efforts

With new guidelines released from the Centers for Disease Control, we are now seeing the first glimmers of how life will return to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC has announced that those who have been fully vaccinated can now feel safe gathering with other vaccinated people indoors without masks or social distancing, and can gather with other small groups of unvaccinated individuals (like, for example, grandchildren) in the same manner, as long as nobody involved is known to be in a high-risk group.

There’s now enough evidence that the vaccines truly provide sufficient protection for these sorts of gatherings, but masking and social distancing still need to take place in public even for the vaccinated, for obvious reasons. We don’t yet know the extent to which vaccinated people can unknowingly transmit the virus, and fewer than one in 10 Americans on the street have gotten the vaccine. Official advice about travel and other back-to-normal activities still waits for similar data.

This represents the first “reward” for those both able and willing to be vaccinated, and the first steps toward “herd immunity,” the stage at which such a strong majority of a population has been immunized against a disease (either via medicine or having had the virus themselves) that the virus can no longer easily spread through that population because there simply aren’t enough potential carriers to transport it. But, and this is a big but, it’s not a certainty that we’ll soon get to that magical point. It’s complicated. There are problems.

And the biggest problem is the existence of a contrarian, anti-science, troll-based, sociopathic, and fascist movement still calling itself Republicanism. When the incompetent Donald Trump decided he would bluster his way through a worldwide pandemic by belittling it and claiming measures to curtail the virus’ spread were socialist plots against him, masks, social distancing, and other safety measures became partisan issues. Fox News, a now throughly fascist network of propaganda peddling, immediately seized on the same themes; the pandemic, claimed hosts, was neither as severe as the world’s experts were claiming nor justified the kind of health measures that experts were warning were needed.

Now, nearly one-quarter of Republicans are refusing to get vaccinated. Reaching true normal depends on a lot of factors, but one of the most critical is departisanizing public health to the point where even the Fox News-obsessed can understand that it is in their interests to get a vaccine that will allow their friends and neighbors to Not Die.

This isn’t a one-way street, either. During Trump’s tenure, Black Americans were overwhelmingly suspicious of taking the vaccine, with nearly two-thirds expressing hesitancy due to deep mistrust of Trump and of government intentions in general. After Joe Biden’s victory those numbers flipped. Partly due to the better vaccine data we now have, partly due to vaccine education efforts specifically directed towards non-white Americans, and partly due to the removal of a white nationalist administration with open malevolence towards them, those numbers have now reversed themselves and then some. Now, vaccine hesitancy is foremost a Republican issue. Still. Again.

It does not take any digging to guess why: Politically, the Republican position has remained largely unchanged from a year ago. The most ambitious Republican leaders are now hurrying to “reopen” their states, with governors like the ever-self-interested Greg Abbott of Texas removing pandemic restrictions and leaving it to individual businesses and employees to attempt to enforce safety measures, or not, at their own risk.

Abbott’s decision is primarily one rooted in cowardice. By washing their hands of pandemic safety measures, he and other Republican governors are calculating that Biden’s new mass vaccination plans will slow the pandemic enough for them to focus on placating an anti-mask base, boosting their status with that base while instead forcing waiters, grocery store employees, and other low-wage workers to enforce mask rules without authority or state backup. Given that mask objectors tend to be on the fringes of competent society to begin with, this has not infrequently led to belligerence, threats, and violence.

It’s also going to lead to yet another spike in pandemic deaths, which Abbott and others may believe can now be pinned on the new non-Republican president, further partisanizing pandemic safety. Other world trolls are also piling on, with Russian intelligence agencies looking to sow world vaccine doubts—though perhaps mostly to boost their own vaccine’s profit potential.

Reaching something resembling herd immunity will require not only the massive vaccination efforts we are now seeing, but an expansion of efforts even beyond the current. We are racing against time. The more the virus spreads, the more mutations occur. The more mutations occur, the more likely it becomes that one of those mutations becomes able to evade current vaccines and/or reinfect those who have already recovered from a previous COVID-19 infection. If that happens, we’re all boned and the world has to start from scratch. It’s not a given that a vaccine can be produced for every possible variant that might arise, and it’s not a given that even if all of this nation is immunized tomorrow that a newly deadly variant won’t arise in a nation without vaccine access next week.

Vaccination efforts at this point are like firefighting efforts. There aren’t enough medical services in the world to douse a blaze this big outright; we are instead focusing on keeping the fire away from propane tanks and other explosives, containing it until it can burn itself out. Actually putting out the fire requires the vast majority of Americans to put it out themselves, by getting vaccinated as soon as they possibly are able and by wearing a damn mask until no more smoke is visible.

It would be nice if certain for-profit networks, pundits, and politicians would stop throwing matches, but that’s not likely to happen. The rest of us have to work around them.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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