Vaccination rates in Virginia as of Thursday, Feb. 23. Courtesy of Virginia Department of Health.

As the surge in Covid infections secondary to the Omicron variant begins to mediate, you may be congratulating yourself on not being vaccinated and either not being infected or, if you were infected, surviving the infection.  There even may be a sense of accomplishment and pride in your individualism as you have shown you could beat the pandemic and you can look back in comfort, now that the pandemic appears to be over.

I am sorry and I hate to rain on your parade, but the scourge of Covid is not over.  First, even though Covid is not as rampant as it was, recent data available as this is being written,  indicate  there are still more than 80,000 new cases a day, there are still more than 60,000 patients hospitalized with Covid, and there are still approximately 2,000 deaths a day.  These statistics only appear as an improvement when compared with the height of the pandemic.  I would also sadly point out that a disproportionate number of patients with Covid are in rural areas and in our case, particularly in southwest Virginia.   

As ominous as the statistics are, they may soon be worse.  There is a new variant of the Omega variant identified in the US, BA.2.  Early reports are that it may not be as lethal as previous variants, but may be more contagious.  It is not yet clear if it will cause another surge in cases or just slow the current decline in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.  Regardless, it is ominous and raises concerns that after this variant, there may be another.  Current evidence indicates that as long as the virus is circulating variants will develop and the way to stop the virus from circulating is to have a population that is not susceptible to the virus.

The best way to have a population not susceptible to Covid is to have a population with a high vaccination rate!!!  Current vaccines which are available have proven to be extremely effective and safe in reducing the morbidity and mortality of the Covid virus.  They are not perfect and there are breakthrough infections, particularly in vulnerable populations, but the impact on the population as a whole, is very impressive.  Furthermore, we can reduce the spread of virus and hopefully avoid new variants if our population is vaccinated.

Here is what I think the unvaccinated population should do and why:

  1. Get vaccinated and not just the two recommended immunizations, get the booster and even if you have had Covid, get vaccinated as data suggest that infection does not protect as well against future infections as vaccination
  2. Being vaccinated will protect you from the serious morbidity and mortality associated with Covid which is good for you and also good for people who rely on you
  3. If you are vaccinated, you will likely not spread the virus and this means you are not as likely going to infect children and the elderly
  4. If we can get a highly vaccinated population, we will reduce hospitalizations and free up our health system to provide needed care to the populations which they serve and for whom care has been hampered by a lack of resources because the resources had to be diverted to care of Covid patients
  5. A highly vaccinated population will likely slow or stop the spread of Covid and reduce the development of variants

Listed above are reasons to be vaccinated which I believe will protect both the individual as well as the community?  I am not going to discuss mask or other issues as I think the critical and most important issue is vaccination.  I think there is enough evidence now available to vigorously support vaccination and I cannot come up with a rational reason to oppose vaccination.  In the interests of full disclosure, I am vaccinated and have received a booster and will get in line quickly for the next booster when it is available.

William Kanto, Jr, MD grew up in Norton and continues to live part-time in Wise County's Powell Valley....