The Corner

Politics & Policy

We’re Hitting a Vaccination Wall, So Open Everything

A healthcare worker draws a coronavirus vaccine from a vial at the Mission Commons assisted living community in Redlands, Calif., January 15, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Walking around New York City, one of the hardest-hit places on earth, the other day, I observed mobile vaccination stations ready for customers. But I saw no customers. Meanwhile, nationwide vaccination demand has collapsed; on May 4, not even one million people received vaccinations in America. Less than a month ago, roughly 3.4 million Americans a day were getting a coronavirus vaccine. Now the seven-day average is down to 2.1 million shots a day, a level unseen since the first half of March.

What does this tell us? Although not yet half the country is vaccinated, just about everyone over 16 who really wants the vaccine has gotten it. CVS is now offering the vaccine to walk-ins nationwide. Looking at the numbers from the U.K. and Israel, where the virus seems to have been defeated as vaccination rates have surpassed 50 percent, the U.S. slowdown is dispiriting. A lot of people just don’t want the vaccine.

But why should that limit what the rest of us can do, or indeed what the unvaccinated can do? New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that ballparks will have two sections: one for vaccinated people and one for unvaccinated people. People will be free to pack together tightly in the vaccinated section, but the other section will require social distancing. It strikes me that Cuomo is halfway to figuring this out: if you’re vaccinated, you have very little cause for fear. But if you’re unvaccinated, you’re living at your own risk. So why not pack together people as normal? Moreover, why would you separate out the at-risk people and put them together? Doesn’t that simply increase the chances of transmission? Every vaccinated person is a roadblock to the virus. If an unvaccinated person should be carrying the virus, but is surrounded by vaccinated people, they won’t get sick, and he also won’t be able to pass it on.

It may be some time before COVID-19 deaths approach zero in this country, but after a vaccine is widely available, allowing yourself to be vulnerable is a matter of individual choice. Once we have hit the point where the only reason not to have been vaccinated is that you refuse the vaccine, it’s time to reopen everything fully. The unvaccinated population is, to me, acting unwisely, but that’s their problem. As long as I’m vaccinated, I don’t really care what they do. Nor am I averse to sitting next to them in a theater, arena or stadium. I have no reason to fear them, and they have no reason to fear me.

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