As I write this, approximately 596,000 Americans have died from the Covid-19 virus, depending on which source you reference. Despite this staggering number—quickly approaching the total number of dead from the American Civil War that unfolded over the course of nearly five years—many seem unfazed even though this death toll occurred over 14 months as opposed to five years.
The news out of India is equally shocking as they’re losing 4,200 people every day to this virus. Closer to home, we’ve lost nearly 400 of our neighbors in Cumberland County and just over 50 here in Bridgeton. I remind myself of these numbers because it is the backdrop against which we must consider the question of vaccine hesitancy.
As we move toward summer, there is this feeling that the worst is behind us and we can now get on with our lives. This is partly true as restrictions are lifted, capacities are increased, social distancing requirements are eased, and masks become just another part of the wardrobe.
Part of what is propelling us toward normalcy is the fact that some of us have gotten one of the vaccines. Statewide, 43 percent of adults over age 18 have been vaccinated. In Cumberland County, out of 116,079 people over the age of 18, some 36 percent or 41,788 of our neighbors have been fully vaccinated. That means that 74,291 of our neighbors have not.
These numbers will change weekly, but as it stands, we’re at the low end of the spectrum. As Bridgeton’s mayor, I’m focused on my community and the news is not what I’d have hoped regarding vaccination rates. With a population of 17,009 over age 18, only 26 percent (4,422 residents) have gotten vaccinated. This means that 12,587 of our residents are unvaccinated.
There is enough vaccine available for any who want it, but too many do not want to receive the vaccine. I am troubled by the low vaccination rate in my community and I am worried about the future.
While I am vaccinated as are some in my immediate circle, I know that an equal or greater share of those around me are not vaccinated. This means they are far more vulnerable to the ravages of this virus than to any potential side effects from a vaccine.
According to the CDC over 245 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered nationwide from December 14, 2020, through May 3, 2021 and VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) received 4,178 reports of death (0.0017 percent) among those who received a COVID-19 vaccine as compared to 596,000 Americans who have died from the virus. Thus, people have a far greater chance of dying from the virus than getting sick or dying from any of the vaccines.
With the health of my community in mind, I encourage everyone to get one of the Covid vaccines now if you haven’t already. If you’re unsure, talk with your doctor. If you don’t have a doctor, talk to one of the doctors at CompleteCare, where you can also get vaccinated.
Vaccines will not guarantee that you’ll not get Covid, but it will lessen the chances that an infection will put you in the hospital. We have to think about how this virus might mutate in coming months. There are variants out there now and we could be facing a new phase with this virus in months. Now is the time to get ahead of COVID.