Our Opinion: Get vaccinated. Save lives

An editorial by the editorial board of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Get vaccinated. Save lives" appears on the front page of the Wednesday, Sept. 1 edition.  Photo by Curtis Compton / Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

An editorial by the editorial board of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Get vaccinated. Save lives" appears on the front page of the Wednesday, Sept. 1 edition. Photo by Curtis Compton / Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Editor’s note: This editorial appears on the front page of the Wednesday, Sept. 1 edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The misguided who refuse to be vaccinated are costing fellow Georgians their lives, plain and simple.

Yes, there are some with legitimate medical or religious reasons for not receiving the inoculation.

But the growing tally of the dead or sick is heavily weighted with names of the unvaccinated who paid an irrevocable price for their decision.

We all know who they are.

The co-worker who willingly accepts fiction over fact.

The parishioner who believes social media over science.

The neighbor who displays an utter disregard for their own well-being – and the well-being of those around them.

Their foolish decisions affect us all.

Nine of 10 people now hospitalized with coronavirus had not been vaccinated. That means the responsible among us who may need care are at greater risk.

That’s inevitable with about 95% of intensive care unit beds now filled, and some hospitals reporting that COVID patients comprise more than 40% of all hospitalizations.

This editorial appears on the front page of  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday Sept. 1, 2021. (AJC ePaper)

Credit: AJC ePaper

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Credit: AJC ePaper

The delta variant is spreading aggressively through our state. And the willful inaction of the unvaccinated has helped keep alive an invisible killer that moves far too freely in our midst.

Even when COVID-19 doesn’t literally choke the life out of its victims, it often robs them of some degree of health. In many cases, COVID “long-haulers” continue to suffer the disease’s ill effects.

As we all know, children under age 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination are also at greater risk – much more so today than before. In the past month, there has been a greater than five-fold increase in child cases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What decent person would put so many in peril?

Those who’ve dismissed vaccination pleas from their employers, their pastors and their loved ones.

Those who’ve made idiotic -- and dangerous -- threats to public health workers staffing vaccination sites or otherwise acting courageously to try and contain the pandemic.

Those who continue to defy common sense and community duty could have chosen to make a difference for themselves – and for those around them.

But they did not.

There is now a communal price we are all paying as a result.

Often, it is a deadly one.

At this point in time, there seems to be no sound reason to refuse a vaccination if you are able. And the excuses weaken more with each passing day.

Just last week, the FDA gave its full approval to the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and older. The vaccine has been used under emergency authorization for 9 months now, with few ill effects.

In a press release announcing its decision, a physician leader at the FDA said, “Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of … safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities.”

That high standard exceeds by far anyone’s blundering around the internet in search of misinformation to confirm their misguided decision to shun the shot.

Yes, you can believe what you want and govern your actions accordingly in an America that has long idealized rugged individualism.

But that comes with a price – one that could cost you your life or claim the life of someone else who may have been trying to do the right thing and inadvertently fell into your web of infection.

In Georgia, COVID has killed 19,680 people as of Tuesday afternoon. More than 5,000 people are hospitalized here with the disease, stretching an already-limited healthcare system and its heroic workers to their limit.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia is nearing 1.1 million. That number’s equal to the population of metro Atlanta in 1970. And it’s a count nearly a dozen times the seating capacity of UGA’s Sanford Stadium.

And we seem nowhere near the end of this plague, thanks to risky ignorance – either willful or simply misguided.

With barely 41 percent of our population fully vaccinated, we’re not even two-thirds of the way toward herd immunity, which experts say would prove a positive turning point in the fight against COVID-19.

Georgians are dying as a result of obstinacy and misguided fear. These are deaths that could have been prevented.

So, for those who refuse to get the vaccine, know that many are losing patience with your flippant refrains about personal choice, often wrapped in a seemingly patriotic cloak.

The Founding Fathers of this great nation knew better.

That’s why they spoke of the common good of “We the people” and not a selfish “me, me, me.”

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution strikes a call for unity in noting the necessity to “provide for the common defense (and) promote the general Welfare.”

Today, we need a common defense against a virus that is killing Americans.

By joining the ranks of the vaccinated, we strengthen a line that the coronavirus cannot readily breach.

Doing otherwise is deadly.

And the victim just might not be someone else.

Instead of seeking out dangerous lies or misinformation about the pandemic that falsely ring true to their ears, skeptics would do better to read the regrets of the wise man Ben Franklin, who wrote in his autobiography, ”In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of 4 years old, by the smallpox taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly and still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation.”

Franklin’s newspaper had years earlier scoffed at a then-new method of inoculation that was introduced to America by a slave who related how West Africans had used it to contain disease.

Regret can be a painful teacher, and its awful lessons could often have been avoided.

Vaccine obstinacy seems the opposite of what truly made America great.

Instead, it seems a rejection of common sense, common courtesy, civic duty and shared humanity.

If you haven’t been vaccinated, now is the time.

If not for you, for the rest of us.

Remember, your irresponsible actions are putting all of us at risk.

The Editorial Board.