OPINION | WOODY BASSETT: That frustrating vaccine hesitancy

Civic-mindedness, care for others should drive response

If you haven't been vaccinated yet for covid-19, nothing written here will likely change your mind. But it's still worth a try.

The only way to fully and finally vanquish the coronavirus is to reach herd immunity, which means 70% or more of the population needs to be vaccinated. Reaching that number is crucial because it will eliminate the remaining barriers to putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror. We can't afford to allow covid to indefinitely persist. The longer it's among us, the more it will mutate. Future variants could be more lethal and the lifesaving vaccines we now have could be rendered less effective in combating those strains of covid.

Thus far only approximately 35% of eligible Arkansans have gotten the shot. That's hard to understand, particularly with a new covid strain called the delta variant currently rampaging through Arkansas communities. The Delta variant is far more transmissible than the original covid strain and more likely to make a person sick enough to have to be hospitalized. This variant is substantially more menacing to younger people. Cases of the delta variant, now the dominant strain, are sharply increasing and spreading widely in Northwest Arkansas. We are going the wrong direction.

It's profoundly disappointing so many people in Arkansas still haven't been vaccinated. Protecting your own health and the health of those you know and love should be a no-brainer. Moreover, refusing to be a part of the solution to a serious, lingering public health crisis is irresponsible.

From the beginning of the pandemic, Fayetteville's city health officer, Dr. Marti Brewer Sharkey, has done a remarkable job providing the public with useful information, reliable data and knowledgeable guidance and recommendations in regard to covid.

In a recent update, Dr. Sharkey wrote: "We are starting to see evidence of exponential spread of the delta variant within our city and county. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing." Referencing how nearby healthcare systems in Missouri are already overwhelmed with covid inpatients, Sharkey points out that at the height of the winter surge in Northwest Arkansas our local hospitals were strained. If the delta variant strikes Northwest Arkansas as hard as it has just north of us, Sharkey warns "it would push our ability to care for you or a loved one with covid, a heart attack, cancer, a car wreck ... think about it. All of this is preventable with vaccines. If you are not vaccinated, please discuss your concerns with your physician. The vaccines are safe, effective, widely available and free. Protect our children, protect our immunocompromised, protect our elderly, protect yourself."

Here's more from Dr. Sharkey: "Over 90% of our cases are occurring in unvaccinated individuals. Over 98% of our hospitalizations are occurring in unvaccinated individuals. Over 99% of our deaths are occurring in unvaccinated individuals. We are seeing young, unvaccinated, otherwise healthy persons in their 20s, 30s and 40s so sick with this variant and so near death that a ventilator would not save their life."

The rapidly escalating delta variant combined with low vaccination rates is a recipe for big trouble. Unvaccinated people are creating an unnecessary burden on area health care systems and dedicated health care workers and first responders who have already been on the frontlines fighting covid for the past 16 months.

This isn't meant to be partisan nor intended to diminish anyone. If only unvaccinated people would listen to the doctors and trust the science instead of hanging their hats on misinformation on the Internet, flat-out lies on a few cable television networks and crazy conspiracy theories spreading unchecked on social media. Those profiting politically or financially by conveying blatant lies and misleading the public about covid vaccinations should be ashamed of themselves.

The covid virus doesn't care if you are a Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, white-collar or blue-collar. It doesn't care what the color of your skin is or what language you speak. It doesn't care who you are, what your job is, what you believe or who you voted for. It only cares about infecting human beings, some fatally.

Getting vaccinated doesn't mean you are forfeiting your freedom, rights or political beliefs. It only means you are being smart and using your common sense plus doing the right thing for yourself, for others and for your community.

You aren't "sticking it to the libs'" by remaining unvaccinated; you are sticking it to everyone. The American thing to do is to all join together to defeat a common enemy. And covid-19, especially the delta variant, is the enemy of all.

Civic obligation, doing something for the greater good and the urgent need to protect yourself and others from the ravages and inconveniences of the virus should be more than enough to convince a person to get a covid shot.

If you are unvaccinated, you are at risk. Get vaccinated. Today.

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