Awakening to the Lessons, and Limits, of Vaccination | National Review

Awakening to the Lessons, and Limits, of Vaccination | National Review

Grace Demars receives a COVID-19 vaccine at North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond, La., August 5, 2021. (Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters)

I have served up a lot of grief to CNN’s Chris Cillizza lately, and . . . er, no, I don’t regret it, he’s deserved every bit of it. But today he laid out his thinking about the pandemic, in a CNN piece and on Twitter, and I think there’s something admirable about his self-awareness of what has been driving him since the pandemic started: a belief that if he, and enough other people, just did the right things, he and his loved ones would never run into Covid-19.

“Deep down, I think I believed that being vaccinated (and boosted) would keep me from getting Covid-19 AT ALL,” Cillizza wrote on Twitter. “Why? Not sure, honestly. But I spent the better part of a year waiting for a vaccine and doing everything I could to keep my family from getting the virus. It’s hard to just turn that switch off. I think that’s why yesterday — when it felt like every person I knew was either being diagnosed with Covid or had been exposed to it — hit me so hard. Because the reality is — and has always been even if I didn’t realize it — that the vaccines don’t, really, prevent you from getting the virus. Or, at least, they don’t guarantee it won’t happen.”

Correct. Vaccines mitigate the effects of the infection and help your body fight off the virus quicker, but they do not prevent all infections. As some of us have been trying to emphasize for a while now, Covid-19 infections do not reflect a moral failing and catching Covid-19 is not a sign of personal failure. Yes, certain actions like avoiding crowds can mitigate the risk somewhat, but now that we’re dealing with a variant of the virus that is 70 times more contagious than the Delta variant, you’re probably going to run into it sooner or later. It’s just dumb luck that someone you run into and come into close enough contact with is infected and is expelling viruses. It happens. Not wearing a seat belt is reckless. Coming within six feet of another human being in the grocery store is just part of life.

The good news is that so far, the Omicron variant seems pretty mild in most cases.

Cillizza mentions being worried about his mom, and he’s not crazy to feel that way. The U.S. and the world are full of people who are fully vaccinated and boosted but still might run into serious problems from a Covid-19 infection – those who are elderly, those who are immunocompromised, those who have multiple comorbidities, or, say, someone being treated for cancer. It’s rational to worry about accidentally spreading the virus to someone who is in a higher risk category. So you take the precautions that you can, make sure the fully boosted vulnerable person is in the best shape possible, try to stay out of a hospital for the next few weeks when the Omicron wave is likely to peak, and live your life. Sure, you’ll never run into Covid-19 if you stay in your home and never interact with another human being, but who wants to live that way? And remember that catching Covid-19 is not a death sentence, even for the elderly. A September CDC report found that vaccination reduced hospitalization among those 75 and older by 76 percent. That’s not 100 percent, but that’s considerable.

A lot of us have decried the “Covid Zero” mentality — that if governments just enacted enough strict vaccination mandates, lockdowns, mask requirements, stay-at-home-orders, quarantines, occupancy limits, travel restrictions and so on, then somehow the virus would disappear. The virus is going to become endemic — like the common cold, it will always be around, but (hopefully) it is in the process of getting weaker and weaker, while more and more of the population acquires natural immunity from prior infection or well-prepared immune systems from vaccination. Whatever else you think of what Cillizza has written lately, credit him for recognizing that the “Covid Zero” approach is simply unrealistic and unworkable.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.