Editorial: Do your part; get the COVID-19 vaccination
A not-so-subtle shift is taking place as the supply of COVID-19 vaccines expands. Whereas only weeks ago, discussion centered on older individuals and people with health complications lamenting the difficulties of getting a shot, today, the conversation is shifting. Now, vaccine supplies in the suburbs are surging, so vaccination policy is no longer built around the need to limit the demand to those who need it most; it is just the opposite. Now the goal is to get as many adults vaccinated as possible and as quickly as possible. Older people or people with compromised health conditions previously were clamoring for shots and complaining about the inability to get them. With the growing abundance of vaccine supply, assisted by the reintroduction of the Johnson & Johnson version over the weekend, the health focus is on coaxing the reluctant and the sluggish to make their way to a clinic and get the shot.
It's an important new direction and one that cannot be overstated. Society is not going to start shedding the restrictions that have disheveled our lives the past 14 months until we have reasonable assurance that it can be done safely. We won't have that assurance until enough people have either had the shot or survived the disease to provide broad immunity throughout the population.
That means that, for their own protection, as many people as possible need to get vaccinated. But it also means that, like so much else involving this pandemic, we are all counting on everyone else to take steps to slow its spread. If you do not get a shot, that decision doesn't endanger you alone, it endangers the health of everyone else around you and lengthens the time we will be living under the current conditions.
We have seen steady declines in COVID-19 infection numbers and deaths. These we know are attributable to mask wearing, distancing and the advent of vaccines. But we also know it's important to keep the numbers in context. Vastly improved reports of daily infections, deaths and rolling averages naturally offer some comfort that we are moving in the right direction, but even the current numbers are cause for concern, posing the potential for 11 times as many deaths from COVID-19 in 2021 as from all influenza types in 2019, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control.
So, as promising as the numbers may feel, they need to improve much more still. And expanded vaccines are an important part of that objective. Experts estimate that in order for the population to be protected by herd immunity, 80% of people need to be immune. As of Monday, less than 30% of Illinoisans had received the shots.
So, yes, the reports are growing more heartening, but, no, we are not nearly where we need to be. We will not get to that point without continued use of masks and social distancing and, especially, expanded numbers of vaccinated residents.
Help us all. Do your part. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands -- and, if you haven't done so already, get inoculated.