By Kimberly Roland
Imagine the horror of waking up in the middle of the night to the screeching sound of your fire alarm going off, and because it is tied into your home alarm system that is also sounding an even higher pitch siren. You jump out of bed and smell the smoke in your home and yell at your spouse to wake up and find the dog. You’re delirious and in shock as you attempt to piece together an exit strategy from your home; you need to safely escape from the fire with your spouse and pet. Now imagine just as you find a safe route from your home, firefighters arrive onsite in your front yard, they jump off their truck, and begin to unravel their hose to douse the flames and save not just your family’s life, but possibly your beloved home. You run out the door screaming to the firefighters: “STOP! Don’t put it out! My spouse and I are coming out; we’re in the clear!” The fire chief shouts through the chaos to you: “We have the solution to your house fire. We can save you and your home!”
You demand the firefighters cease their attempt to extinguish the flames by shrieking “It’s my home and my choice. I don’t want you to put out this fire because I’m concerned about the potential for water damage.” Completely aghast at the nonsensical delirium, the fire chief signals to the crew to stop unraveling the hose to put out the fire. You turn around and watch the flames billowing from your roof as the firetruck drives away down the road.
While I certainly hope none of us ever have to live through the nightmare of a fire, I know we all have lived through a different emergency these last 18 months: the global COVID-19 pandemic. This brief story, as I am sure you figured out by now, is an analogy of the absurdity we find ourselves encountering not just in Arizona but in states across America. Just as we are about to escape the nightmare of a global health crisis, and as the vaccine becomes readily available to everyone in the United States ready to extinguish the proverbial fire, thus allowing us to return to a semblance of normal life, too many Arizonans are rejecting this life saving assistance. As of July 2021, less than 50% of Arizona adults are fully vaccinated despite the fact the vaccine is now widely available, free of charge, and proven safe.
The science could not be more evident of the efficacy of the vaccines and while it is not a panacea, Yale Medicine asserts a 94% efficacy rate for the Moderna vaccine and a 95% efficacy rate for the Pfizer vaccine at preventing symptomatic infection in those without prior infection (https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/covid-19-vaccine-comparison). The existing data as of July 2021 indicates the vaccine also does well in protecting against the variants that are rising as a result of mutations in the virus that occur given a lack of herd immunity. If we really want to end this pandemic, reignite our economy, and return to normal, the solution is here and it comes in the form of the vaccine.
We have heard it a myriad of times by now: this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. While people around the world remain eager to take the vaccine and end the pandemic, we are seeing problematic surges across our country as hospitals begin to fill up, healthcare workers brace for another surge of a now preventable illness, and the economy retracts in anticipation of another wave. Over 18,000 Arizonans and 610,00+ Americans have died as a result of COVID. Millions have survived this pandemic and will live with the painful, expensive, unpredictable lifelong side effects. Johns Hopkins University, a foremost leader notes “the greatest tool in the public health arsenal now is vaccination, which would prevent infections—and further viral mutations—from occurring in the first place” (https://hub.jhu.edu/2021/07/19/andrew-pekosz-delta-variants/). Just as a firefighter extinguishes the flames of your home not just to keep you and your family safe but also to prevent it from spreading across the rooftops to your neighbor’s homes, so too does the vaccine keep us and those around us healthy. To reject this life saving help is not just ludicrous but it is also unwise and irresponsible. Let’s support our business community and return to a reliance on science, civility, and health by taking the vaccine and encouraging those around us to do so with data rather than shame.
VYP op-eds provide an opportunity for VYP board members to share their viewpoints. These opinion pieces reflect the opinion of the author, and do not reflect official positions of the Greater Phoenix Chamber.