Credit: John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune, PA

For a moment, I thought I was done with writing about COVID. However, that was not to be. We are dealing with a virus that will undoubtedly be with us, in various forms of variants, for the foreseeable, if not the longterm, future. Omicron is rapidly spreading in the U.S. It jumped sevenfold last week according to the CDC. California hospitals are reporting increases in COVID patients, with a 31 percent increase in L.A. County alone. Dr. Fauci says Omicron is the most transmissible variant of COVID we’ve had to deal with. The Omicron variant spreads more easily than the Delta variant.

Research shows that three doses (two doses plus a booster) of COVID-19 vaccine can neutralize the Omicron variant. Data shows that boosters fortify the antibody response sufficiently to deliver a substantial increase in protection. A third dose of vaccine increases the neutralizing antibody titer by 25-fold compared to two doses against the Omicron variant. Studies in the U.S. and U.K. concluded respectively that a COVID booster provides 75-85 percent protection against severe illness and death from Omicron. Public health officials are urging those eligible for booster shots to “get them now.” Yet, a significant number of Americans are resisting booster shots.

As of last week, only 19.7 percent of the eligible population had received their third shots. The are several reasons for this, all of which deny reality.

Some people believe that having had two vaccination shots they can go back to living a “normal” lifestyle. Others are more frightened of the shots than the virus. And, of course, still others have come to see not being vaccinated as a political/freedom of choice statement. Regardless of which of these camps the un-boosted are in, they fail to understand that: the world continues to suffer an attack by a deadly and clever coronavirus enemy, and that like it or not they are part of humanity’s army needed to defeat the enemy.

While public health is of course about one’s personal health, it is equally about reducing the spread of illness and protecting the public. As of this writing there have been more than 50 million COVID cases in the U.S. resulting in more than 800,000 deaths (5.21 million cases and 75,927 deaths in California). In some states (Texas, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire) hospitals are operating with more than 90 percent of their ICU beds filled because of Delta and Omicron. In California hospitals in Fresno County and the San Joaquin Valley are running out of capacity, holding dozens of patients in the emergency department rather than being able to admit them. In L.A. and Orange counties the COVID rate has more than quadrupled, while it has quintupled in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We are in a war, which we are losing, with a virus capable of changing its forms to stay “alive.” Vaccinations are our primary weapon in fighting the virus. In the U.S., 61.4 percent of us received two doses of vaccines compared to 46.6 percent worldwide. This is not enough to defeat COVID. Viruses mutate, that’s what they do. This one, unless we stop it, will keep mutating and killing. As it turns out, to be effective a third dose of vaccine is necessary to thwart COVID. If there was an enemy we could see attacking us with guns, there is no doubt in my mind we would easily create a military force for our defense.

Worldwide there have been 275 million cases and 5.35 million deaths from COVID, which Omicron threatens to exacerbate. By comparison, 405,399 soldiers died in World War II. Yet, a significant portion of our population fails to see, understand and be willing to respond to the threat.

It’s now become up to each of us to understand we are all combatants in a fight against a deadly virus, and put aside our politics and fears and join the fight. The only way we can win this fight is to vaccinate, booster, mask and safely distance, regardless of how hard it is to embrace this reality.


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