On COVID Vaccine: Do the Math

Facing what the UN calls an "infodemic," the Surgeon General says misinformation about COVID constitutes a threat to public health.

The full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine is an enormous development in the fight against the COVID-19 global pandemic. Already, there has been a steady increase in the rate of daily vaccinations, though still way below what is needed to stop the surge of the Delta variant. I have been trying my best to educate the public and state and federal officials for years now about the dangers of the anti-vaccination movement. Anti-vaxxers challenge the science they don’t understand or have been lied to about it. Let’s try the math.

Back in April, the incidence rate for the Delta variant was 0.1% among COVID cases. The little children in my math classes can tell you that means one tenth of one percent. Today, the Delta variant accounts for 86% of all cases and 95% of the hospitalizations and 99.5% of the deaths. Intensive care units in the Deep South are overwhelmed and turning away non-COVID patients, including cardiac arrests. Is it a coincidence that Alabama and Mississippi have the lowest vaccination rates in the country? Florida now has more COVID-19 cases than any state since the beginning of this pandemic. 

The FDA approval process was based on a 91% effectiveness rate in preventing the disease from spreading person to person. The Delta variant is spread like the common cold and is more contagious than smallpox. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared the Delta variant one of the most infectious respiratory viruses in history. The protection rate for non-vaccinated people is 0%. 

This full approval comes just days after the FDA approval for the third shot or booster shot. The reason for the booster shot after eight months is the math. The COVID vaccine was found to hold at 92% effective against serious illness and hospitalization from initial COVID-19 cases but only 64% effective against the Delta variant. I, too, was delighted when the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted after being in lockdown in New Jersey for over a year, an early epicenter with more deaths per capita than any other state. I have been going out to dinner virtually every day at a NJ diner. But the war turned out not to be over. What happened? The disease mutated right out of a horror movie. 

A recent Kaiser study found that two-thirds of the non-vaccinated people in the country believe in myths and hoaxes about the safety of vaccinations. (See my ITL articles on vaccinations.) The UN and the World Health Organization have called this problem an "infodemic." The U.S. Surgeon General has added that this health misinformation is now a serious public health threat. 

I am thrilled with the movement now by both public and private institutions, employers, hospitals, nursing homes, colleges, sports teams, restaurants, etc.  requiring proof of vaccinations or at minimum a recent negative COVID test. However, a negative test on Monday means nothing on Tuesday. 

See also: Long-Haul COVID-19 Claims and WC

What is needed is a huge public campaign to educate four core groups of unvaccinated people in this country. Black and Hispanic populations, young adults between 18 and 26 years of age and the Deep South. Where is the Concert for COVID Vaccines? Where are the sports stars whom people idolize coming out for vaccinations instead of trying to sell me stuff on TV?  Want to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden? Get vaccinated at the show! Where are the country music stars? Hispanic music stars? Black music stars? 

There are now 60,000 new cases a day reported of the Delta variant, up from 24,000 cases per day from a few weeks ago. Do the math: 24,000 cases a day is 1,000 new cases an hour. Now it is 2,500 new cases an hour and getting worse. We have already lost over 600,000 people to this horrible pandemic. We went to war when we lost 3,000 Americans at Pearl Harbor, and 60 years later we went to war when we lost another 3,000 on 9/11. 

I don’t want to hear another word about “freedom” from anti-vaccination folks. You are not free to spread a horrible disease to other Americans and their families any more than you are free to be drunk on our highways. Unfortunately, it has now also been reported that the rate of normally routine childhood vaccinations for polio, measles, whooping cough and tetanus is way behind schedule for the re-opening of schools and is now also a major concern. All the political rhetoric and misinformation on vaccines is having a terrible ripple effect.   

We can do this America. Do the math. How do you think polio, smallpox, malaria and childhood diseases like the measles were eliminated? By the scientific development and widespread use of vaccines. Why are these diseases making a comeback? The anti-vaccination movement.

I'll see you at the concert for COVID vaccinations. Can I get my booster shot there?

Daniel Miller

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Daniel Miller

Dan Miller is president of Daniel R. Miller, MPH Consulting. He specializes in healthcare-cost containment, absence-management best practices (STD, LTD, FMLA and workers' comp), integrated disability management and workers’ compensation managed care.


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