President Biden’s “new strategy” for dealing with COVID-19 apparently consists of requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated. Earlier, federal workers could opt out and submit to regular testing for the virus.
But in a country where 208 million Americans have at least one dose, and 75.2 percent of all American adults are vaccinated, one wonders if the effects of this action will even be noticeable. There are about 2.1 million federal workers; if they’re vaccinated at the same rate as U.S. adults, that means about 1.5 million are already vaccinated, and about 500,000 federal workers will get vaccinated because of this new order. That will help, but the effects will not be easily discernible in a country with more than 330 million people.
If the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is going to become endemic – that is, around for a long time – that provides an opportunity to alter our message. It would mean admitting we can’t mask, social-distance, capacity-restriction and quarantine and our way out of this pandemic. Avoiding the virus is not really a long-term strategy, if it ever was. Just about everyone will run into it at some point.
And that offers an opportunity to change the messaging. If everyone is going to run into the virus sooner or later, how prepared do you want your body to be? Yes, if you’ve had COVID-19 before, your immune system is probably well-prepared to fight off another infection. But there are some indications that natural immunity from a past infection, coupled with the additional protection of the vaccination adds up to “super immunity” that protects against all variants. That sounds really appealing!
Instead, it appears the Biden approach is to encourage “get vaccinated or you’re fired” policies as far and wide as possible, and hoping that social and economic pressure gets roughly 13 percent of American adults to accept a vaccine that they have insisted, passionately and vehemently, they do not want.
After yesterday’s Morning Jolt, I heard from a reader who concurred that the cacophony of public health advice and sometimes conflicting restrictions and rules have prompted segments of the public to tune out all the messaging.
I’m a county official in a red state in the West. I recently met with our county health department, the heads of the local hospitals, and several doctors. To say the messaging they were pushing is problematic is understating the issue by orders of magnitude. We are having ER capacity issues and trying to figure out ways to head a few folks off at the pass…increase vaccination uptake, early monoclonal antibody treatments, etc. If we can keep 10 percent of the ER admissions out of the hospital, we are in pretty good shape. Not great, but long term sustainable….
As I explained to them, when I meet someone who speaks Spanish, I always end up shouting when I repeat myself, to make sure they understand what I am saying. It hasn’t worked yet but that’s probably because I’m not yelling loud enough. I followed that up with asking if maybe they could help us change the messaging here. They are just yelling louder and most folks are just tuning them out. It was like pulling teeth to get them to understand. I’m hopeful we can make some progress.
The U.S. government could change its messaging to, “everyone’s going to get exposed to this virus eventually, so prepare yourself with a vaccination.” But instead, Biden would prefer, “get vaccinated or you’re fired.”