I am writing in response to a letter to the editor titled: “LRU could lose students, donations over COVID vaccination requirement” in the Sunday, July 18 edition of the Hickory Daily Record.
When the author stated low COVID-19 case numbers and a low COVID-19 death rate in Catawba County as a reason to validate that vaccination is a personal choice, the author apparently did not take several issues into consideration.
First, COVID-19 case and death numbers would be much higher had it not been for responsible citizens, who have been accused of hiding behind their masks, who physically distanced, who refrained from socializing indoors, and who now are vaccinated. Those of us, who have followed the guidelines, took the responsibility to protect ourselves and others. Otherwise, the pandemic would be an even greater catastrophe.
Second, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again due to the Delta variant, which is much more transmissible than previous variants and the original wild virus, and 99.5 percent of COVID-19 patients, who have been hospitalized or died in recent months, were not vaccinated.
Third, everyone should consider the burden this pandemic has imposed on the healthcare system. We should have empathy for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff, who are physically and emotionally stressed and exhausted as a result of COVID-19. We should consider the financial burden on patients.
Fourth, a considerable number of COVID-19 patients lucky to survive are still suffering with long COVID, greatly reducing their quality of life. Too, the number of COVID-19 deaths has possibly been undercounted, because some people infected with COVID-19 died weeks or months following the initial infection as a result of heart failure or other conditions, which were triggered as a result of organ damage by the virus.
It is a fact that the more vaccines are administered, the less opportunity the virus has to spread and mutate, thus reducing the risk for everyone. Juxtaposing COVID-19 victims, who succumbed to the illness (314 in Catawba County, more than 606,000 in the US and over 4 million globally), to the freedom to choose vaccination is not justified. These victims are not collateral damage. Many could still be alive if guidelines would have been followed more closely, and many more deaths can still be prevented through vaccination.
Lastly, we should not compare the vaccination issue to the reproductive rights issue. Neither pregnancy nor abortion is contagious.
This pandemic is like warfare, and we have the weapons to end it. I am sure most people are grateful for the men and women in the military, who put their lives at risk to protect our country and its citizens. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all soldiers, and a shot in the arm is the least we can do to protect society as a whole. I consider it my civic duty.