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Sunday, July 11, 2021

Rhode Island's vaccination numbers are great...

 ...But they don't tell the whole story

By Will Collette

By Pat BagleySalt Lake Tribune
Is it really safe to go out now? After living through almost a year and a half of the world being ravaged by a new and deadly virus, this is a question each of us must answer for ourselves.

More than 600,000 Americans and over 4 million worldwide died from COVID over these past months. 

At least 500,000 Americans died needlessly because Donald Trump chose the worst possible way of dealing with a public health crisis by turning it into a political shit show.

Trump's shit show is a key ingredient in any reasonable and considered decision about how safe it is to out back to some semblance of normalcy. 

On the plus side, we have good vaccines that have been proven to be highly effective. Most Rhode Islanders have been smart enough to get it, but the rates vary wildly from town to town. 

RI official data shows that 120% of all Block Islanders have been vaccinated compared to only 43.3% in Woonsocket, the state's lowest. Charlestown stands at 61.1% fully vaccinated.

According to Health Department data, 15 RI cities and towns have had more than 100% of their aged 65+ residents vaccinated. On Block Island, the data says that among people aged 25 to 44. 294.1% have been vaccinated.

How the mish mosh of data for the cities and towns - some of it obviously wrong like Block Island's numbers - ends up providing the state with a cumulative number is a mystery to me. But generally, I do accept the validity that we have a pretty good rate of vaccination. 

Now if only the state's Trumplican leaders like Blake "Flip" Filippi and Justin Price would work to undo their anti-vaxxing rhetoric and conduct and send a pro-vaccine message to the "vaccine-hesitant", we might get our numbers up even higher.

Cathy and I have been fully vaccinated since March 31. I have gone out both with and without a mask but have generally found I am more comfortable with continued mask use. 

I believe the CDC when they say the vaccines are almost 100% effective. But there is still a risk, even if you are fully vaccinated, as Rhode Island statistics show.

The chart on the left shows that 1.4% of fully-vaccinated Rhode Islanders who have been tested ended up testing positive, meaning they caught a "break-through" COVID infection. 

However, the state simply doesn't know how many more such cases there are out there because the state's once robust COVID testing system has pretty much ended. The state is now performing less than 5,000 tests daily. 

I doubt few fully vaccinated persons who are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms get tested so that 1.4% figure is very suspect.

Perhaps the second chart gives us a more accurate picture of the risk to the fully vaccinated. That chart shows that 3.5% of all patients hospitalized for COVID are fully vaccinated, despite the assurances that if you are fully vaccinated, COVID can't kill you or put you in the hospital.

But even though the vaccines are not 100% perfect: GET VACCINATED. The numbers DO show the vaccines dramatically reduce your risk. All the data shows that the UNVACCINATED carry the highest risk of all. 

By Clay BennettChattanooga Times Free Press
Viruses like COVID change ("mutate") often. Like all other living things, they change to be more successful as a species. 

Thus, now we are all hearing about the "Delta Variant," a mutated form of COVID that is more effective at infecting people and has become the #1 strain here and around the world. 

The vaccines still work against the Delta Variant (so get your shots) but unless we stop the spread of COVID, sooner or later, the virus may develop a new variant that can counteract the vaccine.

That will put us back where we were at the beginning of the pandemic.

This brings us back to Donald Trump who made it an article of faith to deny the virus poses any harm, that masks are useless, social distancing is bad for the economy and hydroxychloroquine is better than the vaccines. Acute cases of COVID and resulting deaths and long-term effects are highest in areas that voted for Trump.

They are places that could spawn the next variants. 

So might many nations of the world who lack the resources and framework to vaccinate their people. It is good that the United States and Europe plan to send hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine to countries that need it, but it needs to happen fast, again to prevent the virus from mutating into a form we can't handle. As the saying goes, no one is safe until we're all safe.

In conclusion, get your shots, be careful out there and stay healthy.