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Country missed its chance to beat back virus

When vaccinations became available to prevent serious illness from the COVID-19 virus, many did the right thing, but tragically not enough did so.

Getting a vaccination did not come without risk. Yes, clinical trial results had persuaded federal regulators to award the vaccinations emergency status to allow inoculations to begin, but there were no guarantees that problems would not be found when sample sizes went from tens of thousands in the clinical trials to tens of millions in broad distribution.

But the threat of getting COVID-19 presented the far greater risk to individuals than any isolated side effects that might emerge.

For the older and more vulnerable, self-protection was a motivator. For the younger and healthier, those more likely to handle the illness caused by earlier strains of the virus, the calculation was a bit different. Yes, getting the vaccine provided inoculation for these folks, too, but just as important it provided increased protection for the family — children under 12 still cannot get a vaccination — for the community, the state, and country.

Because if enough people received the vaccination the virus would be starved for lack of human hosts, and mutated variants would have less chance to gain a foothold. In that way, getting a vaccine was a selfless act, as much about we as me.

Unfortunately, too many chose instead to be selfish, to listen to the misguided garbage spewed out on the digital conveyor belts of social media and willfully ignore the science and the overwhelming evidence that the vaccines were safe and effective.

And so the opportunity was missed to crush the virus, to assure the progress that has allowed society and the economy to largely reopen would be maintained. Instead, the nation faces an uncertain future, with the potential for mask orders and restrictions to return.

It was so unnecessary.

Due to the void created by the national failure to obtain “herd immunity,” the most virulent and contagious variant yet has taken hold — the delta strain. Scientists says it features a viral load a thousand times that of the first COVID cases.

Last week Connecticut health officials reported that nearly 80% of all new COVID-19 cases here stem from the delta variant, as Connecticut recorded its highest weekly positivity rate in more than two months. This lines up with the national trend in delta prevalence.

On Friday, the New York Times tracking pointed to 45,351 news cases from the day before, with 252 new deaths, a 30% spike. COVID infections are up 180% from the prior 14-day period. About 610,000 Americans have died of COVID-related sickness since the pandemic began.

Connecticut and the Northeast are faring better than other sections of the country, thanks in part to relatively high vaccination rates — with 63% fully vaccinated in our state, fourth highest in the nation. New England states hold six of the top seven positions in terms of vaccination rates, interrupted only by Maryland in sixth place.

Among the most mind-boggling aspects of the disappointing vaccine rates are their political/geographical nature. The bottom 25 states in terms of vaccination rates are all “red states” whose politics trend Republican and conservative. Dead last, at 34% full vaccination rates, are Mississippi and Alabama.

What kind of expression of freedom is this? Freedom to put your own life and the lives of others at unnecessary risk? Freedom to prevent our country from returning to and sustaining normalcy?

More Republican leaders are finally stepping forward and urging vaccinations, but there is a sense of too little, too late.

While the vaccines continue to prevent serious illness from the delta strain, they are not blocking it entirely. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was just 39% effective in keeping people from getting infected, a study in Israel found, though 91.4% protective against severe illness.

This means the vaccinated can likely be spreaders, raising the threat to the unvaccinated, including kids. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont may have to renew mask orders if the troubling trends continue.

And to think this could have been stopped if more had acted responsibly.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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