SARS-CoV-2 causes a system infection and is commonly detected in the heart and brain, exemplified by the loss of smell from brain tissue destruction and loss of cardiac function from myocarditis.
Protecting one’s own personal health will not control this pandemic. Only by protecting the health of all can we succeed. As vaccine efficacy falls, personal protection is not assured. Many question why we should vaccinate? But for public health, the less efficacious the vaccine becomes, the more imperative it is for all to vaccinate. The added protection we obtain by everyone vaccinating and decreasing viral exposure, overcomes the loss in vaccine efficacy. The same argument can be made for use of N95 masks, social distancing, and improved indoor ventilation. All offer a layer of protection, none by themselves or in combination assures personal protection.
Much of the abandonment of public health measures has been spurred by a massive disinformation campaign which has successfully convinced a relatively large portion of our population that as long as one lives through COVID-19 all will be well. The young and healthy have especially embraced this narrative. A narrative which offers false hope for the following reasons:
First, the premise that mild infections do not carry significant risks is false. In part this belief is driven by those who have not died from COVID-19 being counted as “recovered” as opposed to “survived.” SARS-CoV-2 causes a system infection and is commonly detected in the heart and brain, exemplified by the loss of smell from brain tissue destruction and loss of cardiac function from myocarditis. Even those who develop “mild” COVID-19 can develop long COVID-19 which in many cases lasts for a year or longer.
Second, when members of our society become ill, regardless of their age or social standing, it places us all at risk. The unvaccinated are especially prone to spread the virus to others furthering the pandemic. Kentucky is a state of 4.5 million people. By the beginning of 2022 there were 34,862 Kentuckians hospitalized and 6688 were in the ICU from COVID-19.
There are well over 12,000 Kentuckians have died of COVID-19. Even with Kentucky having some of the lowest in-network costs for COVID-19 hospital care in the nation, the total bill so far is just shy of 1 billion dollars ($990,040,866). This alone is an unsustainable amount, but it does not include the cost of outpatient care, mass testing, and chronic treatment for those afflicted with long-COVID-19. What is so infuriating is that the vast majority of individuals who are hospitalized are unvaccinated.
Finally, even “mild” disease can cripple a nation. For all too many, their encounter with “mild” COVID will result in the sickest they have ever been. If this occurs en masse we will see crippling of our infrastructure. We saw the beginning of this over the Christmas holidays when thousands of airline flights were canceled worldwide due to flight crews contracting COVID-19. On the Sunday after Christmas, over 1000 flights were canceled and over 5000 delayed due to COVID-19. Vaccinated healthcare workers are also being infected with the immune avoiding Omicron Variant, further straining healthcare staff shortages. In Michigan, thousands of healthcare workers are sick or in quarantine from COVID-29 placing patient care in jeopardy SARS-CoV-2. Even a milder form of COVID-19 from a highly contagious virus can cripple our economy and collapse essential services resulting in collateral deaths. I myself have had cancer treatment delayed because my treating facility was filled with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.
Unfortunately, irresponsible behavior is justified as a personal right and encouraged by the knowledge that others will fund your safety net if you contract COVID-19. Many in society have become fed up with this irresponsible behavior. This is what has already happened in Singapore. Singapore is no longer paying the full charge for COVID-19 treatment. Patients who are voluntarily unvaccinated will have to pay the usually charges, similar to deductibles and co-pays in the United States.
In public health, the prevention of disease is of paramount importance, prevention of death is an important byproduct, but not the primary goal. If we do not control COVID-19, the medical costs will cripple our society and having a sick workforce will cripple our productivity and our society.
In other words, even if all of the public health measures do not provide the degree of personal protection one desires, it is imperative that they are uniformly adopted to suppress the spread of the virus in the community and prevent damage to our economy and the collapse of essential services.