Serious, sincere question, free of snark (difficult for me):
Is it time to let natural selection run its course?
Is it time to let people unvaccinated against COVID-19 learn the hard way, and stop trying to save them from themselves?
It’s been more than a year since vaccines for COVID-19 became available to the public. As of this week, just shy of half of all Hoosiers have chosen not to get them.
Locally, the split is even wider — about 64% of four-county area residents are not fully vaccinated.
We know, beyond a reasonable doubt, from long-term and consistent statistical evidence, that people who get vaccinated gain significant (although not perfect) protection against hospitalization and death.
The vaccines have admittedly not be as great at preventing transmission or preventing infection, although your odds of suffering an infection are also lower and your case is likely to be milder if you do get vaccinated as compared to those who don’t.
Admission rates and deaths rates for people suffering breakthrough cases, however, are vastly far lower for vaccinated individuals, even despite the average age of those vaccinated individuals being higher. We know that COVID-19 is more dangerous the older you are and the fact that generally older individuals are doing better than younger people is another indicator to the effectiveness of the shots.
Hospitals have consistently reported for months and months now that more than 80% of their patients coming in for COVID-19 complications are unvaccinated, despite the split between the two groups on vaccination rate has been about 50/50 since the delta variant first arrived in July 2021.
These are the facts. They’re well documented, consistent over long periods and apparent.
Anyone should be able to understand that the odds to be hospitalized being 2% is better than 10%. There’s no reasoned argument that a 10% chance to be hospitalized is better than 2%, although many are still trying to make that argument.
We’ve had a year for people to take advantage voluntarily and nearly half of Hoosiers haven’t. Efforts to try to force the issue via an employer vaccine mandate for larger employers made by the federal government was deemed unconstitutional.
If we can’t compel people to get vaccinated and we can’t encourage them or educate them to do so voluntarily then, I’m sad to say it, but I think we’re done here.
If people want to put themselves at increased risk for hospitalization and death, whatever their reasons are, they have the freedom to do so. It’s a freedom I personally think is one you’d be foolish to exercise, but such is America.
Gov. Eric Holcomb has said a few times recently that he would prefer Hoosiers don’t learn “the hard way.”
“I more than wish that it didn’t take those negative reinforcements to affect people’s behaviors,” Holcomb said to KPC Media Group in a December interview, referencing those who grasp the severity of the virus only after someone near to them gets seriously ill or dies.
But, realistically, it looks like that is the only path forward.
The people who don’t want to get sick or die will do what they can to protect themselves. Those who refuse won’t and will continue to walk around at much higher risk.
They will continue to get sick. They will continue get hospitalized. They will continue to die. They will continue to do all of those things at greater rates than the people who choose vaccination.
And, as callous as it sounds, maybe it’s time to stop feeling bad for them.
When a person does everything right and still dies, it’s a tragedy. When someone does nothing and suffers the same result, well, you had your opportunity to give yourself improved chance at life and you chose not to take it.
Vaccination may not be the route we thought it would be in terms of stopping transmission and stamping COVID-19 out. Maybe it’s as some nihilists foretold and maybe we can’t stop it and will instead have to learn to live with it.
But in the case of other endemic diseases we can’t effectively eradicate, the obvious next best step is mitigation.
And if two-thirds of the local population chooses not to mitigate the possible impact, that’s ultimately on them.
If transmission can’t be stopped or reduced to nil, then the argument that getting vaccinated protects your community loses weight. And it simply becomes about protecting yourself.
And if you choose not to protect yourself via negligence — you don’t wear a seat belt, you don’t lock up your firearms, you don’t get vaccinated against communicable diseases — then maybe it’s time to get past the point of feeling sorry.
Maybe it’s time to let natural selection run its course. Nature will weed out those behaviors over time.
However, the biggest downside to shutting ourselves off to empathy is that the ones who will continue to pay the price will be health care workers.
While I personally can shrug my shoulders if you didn’t get vaccinated and end up deathly ill with COVID-19, they can’t.
Medical workers are compelled to try to save you, regardless of how reckless you are.
If you get really drunk and drive and wrap your car around a tree, they will, must, try to save your life.
If you are goofing around with a loaded gun and shoot your friend in the stomach, they will, must try to save them.
If you eat laundry detergent or drink bleach or chow a tube of horse dewormer because some YouTube video told you it will prevent COVID and end up poisoned, they will, must, try to save your life.
That’s not fair to them.
We see stories of health providers, hospital chaplains and others who have shared the toll that the pandemic has taken on them not just physically but mentally. We’ve seen tragic stories of them watching the once-fervently opposed beg on their death beds, or nurses watching a patient’s family members agonizing in the waiting room while their loved one is dying because they couldn’t break through.
Do we have to just accept that’s the way it’s going to be, until this all ends, until a new variant emerges that finally convinces people or until, some day, Mother Nature completes her massacre and most of those people are simply gone?
What else can we do at this point?
I’m out of answers.
I’m out of ideas.
And I’m sad it’s come to that.