Editorial: It is time to knock out the virus, and we can’t let the unvaccinated get in the way

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

The virus is not behind us. It is still in lots of us. That’s becoming clearer, more troubling and more frustrating by the day.

The troubling part, of course, is that the number of deaths attributable to the virus is continuing to increase. Many of those deaths are needless. The frustrating part is that the vast, vast majority of these deaths come from people who are eligible to get a vaccination but just wouldn’t.

Perhaps there are some among us who believe we shouldn’t get frustrated over people failing to protect themselves. If that’s all this were, that would be a fair enough — although callous — argument.

But a person’s decision to forgo vaccination doesn’t just impact that person. When they get sick and need a hospital bed, they’ll get one. No hospital denies care because a person refused to get vaccinated. When the hospital fills up, there will be people who did their part to get vaccinated that will need a hospital bed — probably for something other than COVID — who won’t be able to get one. A lack of care will cause some of them to suffer or die, even though they did what they were supposed to do during a public health emergency while others who did not suck up a limited supply of health care. That’s not fair.

The more worrisome part is that the longer we allow this virus to spread among the unvaccinated, the greater chance it has to mutate into a new version that evades our current vaccines. At that point, the country and the world would largely be back to square one. That would be devastating on both a physical and an emotional level.

Excuse the language, but we have the virus on the ropes. We need to knock its ass out.

That’s tough talk, and we could use more of it. It was encouraging to see the governor of Alabama — a Republican — deliver such a message to her state’s residents, who have generally have been awful at getting vaccinated.

“It is time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “It is the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

She also said people are “supposed to have common sense,” which should lead them to get vaccinated, and that the unvaccinated are “choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.”

It is good to hear that tough talk from a Republican leader, given that the vaccination issue clearly has a partisan lean. But, it is still just talk. For a few it may cause them to get off the fence and get a vaccine. But for the ones who have really made up their mind, talk is not likely to get the job — or the jab — done.

There are actions, though, that may cause some to get the shot, even if reluctantly. Once the vaccines move from emergency-use approval to full approval, that should be the trigger for the federal government and others to get more aggressive in requiring vaccines for certain activities. President Joe Biden has suggested such final approval could come this fall.

It would be nice to just have a nationwide vaccination requirement, but states’ rights and the political environment in many states probably would ensure that strategy results in more in-fighting than inoculations. But there is quite a bit the federal government could do without any assistance from the states. For example, require all federal employees to be vaccinated. Require anyone receiving a federal student loan to be vaccinated. Tie K-12 education grant money to vaccination requirements. Make proof of vaccination part of the TSA screening process at airports. The list could go on.

All of that will create a lot of angst among certain segments of the population. But remember two things. First, vaccination requirements are nothing new. School children and others live with them every year.

Second, delivering a knockout punch can be an uneasy act. It can make you queasy. It can make you uncomfortable. But sometimes, it is what has to be done to ensure that the good side wins.

Let’s knock this out.


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