The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has ruled that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing.
Some are hailing the date of that announcement, May 13, as V-C Day. Not as in Victory over Communism, a commemoration some have been calling for, to along with V-E day and V-J day marking the end of World War II. But Victory over COVID-19.
I don’t know if we are quite there yet, since problems and inconsistency and confusions remain. And much of the rest of the world has a ways to go, from India’s new levels of deaths to Australia refusing to let its guard down in its insistence on having zero infections. But this will be a milestone in the United States. The vaccinated will revert to normal life, as will the unvaccinated–both COVID skeptics who already ditch the precautions and those who have just not gotten around to getting their shot.
The CDC has not burnished its reputation through this pandemic, what with its changeable guidelines and over-reactions. This decision, arguably, could have been made earlier. The CDC was warning about major disaster just a few weeks ago, if vaccinated people stopped wearing masks, despite what the science was already saying. The effect was to create the impression that if you get vaccinated, nothing will happen. You will still have to live under all of the limitations you did before you got your shot. No wonder many Americans didn’t see the point.
As of May 14, 47% of the population has received at least one dose, with 36% being fully-vaccinated. But that’s 60% of adults. And over 70% of Americans over 65, those most at risk. That’s a lot, and, though we may never reach herd immunity, due to the large number of the “vaccine hesitant,” the effect is kicking in and will only increase. Especially when you factor in the percentage of Americans who have already had COVID and so have natural antibodies, variously estimated at between 2%-21%.
Many of the concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccines have faded away. This European article summarizes the good news that scientists are finding.
One worry was that the vaccines might only stop symptomatic infections, with asymptomatic people still spreading the disease among some some people for whom it would be symptomatic. Nope. Doesn’t happen. The shots stop asymptomatic infections too.
Another worry is that while the vaccines might protect people from getting infected, the virus could still inhabit the mucus membranes in the nose, so that vaccinated people could still spread the disease. Research has shown that this doesn’t happen either.
But what about all of the cases we read about of people who have been vaccinated but still get the disease? Well, such “break through” infections breaking through the antibodies do happen sometimes, which is why they are news. But they are extremely, extremely infrequent. According to the article, there have been around 9,000 people that this has happened to, out of 95 million vaccinations. That comes to an infection rate of just 0.009 percent.
So, thank you, President Trump, for getting these vaccines developed and so extremely quickly. President Biden is trying to take credit, but these vaccines owe their existence and their availability to the previous administration.
The American approach in “Operation Warp Speed” was to throw money at the development process, let pharmaceutical companies profit from their success, and streamline regulations while still ensuring safety and effectiveness. Other countries tried to pinch pennies and piled even more regulations onto drug companies; consequently, they have a smaller supply of the vaccine, and more of their people have been getting sick and dying. Now America’s new rulers are talking about taking away the patents and restricting the profits of the very companies that are saving our lives, thus ensuring that when the next pandemic comes, we won’t have a vaccine infrastructure to stop it.
But in the meantime, we can celebrate V-C Day. As we put the year of the Coronavirus behind us, we can take a deep breath. Which is much easier to do when you aren’t wearing a mask.