Kelly Hawes

President Joe Biden spoke directly to the tens of millions of Americans still refusing to get a vaccine.

“We’ve been patient,” he said Friday, “but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”

He wasn’t talking to me. My doctor recommends I get a flu shot, and I get one every year.

Last year, he suggested a pneumonia vaccine, and I got that, too.

He also mentioned a shot for shingles, and I was sold before he made his pitch. I had known people who came down with shingles, and I wanted no part of it.

And the COVID vaccines? I went online to make an appointment the very first day I became eligible, and when my time comes for a booster, I’ll be among the first in line.

Like most Americans, my experience with vaccines goes back to childhood.

Mom always made sure I had all the recommended shots, and though I was no fan of needles, I did like the lollipops, and the shots kept me healthy.

So I was stunned years later when I encountered a woman who said her child would get none of the recommended vaccines.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because there might be side effects,” she said, “and besides, if everyone else gets their kids vaccinated, my child has almost no risk of coming down with any of these childhood diseases.”

My mouth refused to form words. It had never occurred to me that a parent might actually make such a choice.

Now, of course, the vaccine skeptics are coming out of the woodwork. Many seem to truly believe the pharmaceutical industry, public health officials and the government are joined in some vast conspiracy.

They point out that people have come down with the coronavirus even after being fully vaccinated, but they ignore data that show 99.99% of those folks did not get sick enough to wind up in a hospital.

This remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated. They’re overwhelmingly the ones filling emergency rooms and intensive care units.

More than 650,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, and the number is growing by more than 1,500 a day.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates the death toll nationwide will top 750,000 by Dec. 1, but it’s not too late to change that. The institute estimates increased use of masks alone could save more than 50,000 lives.

And then, of course, there are the vaccines.

As of Sept. 9, more than 177 million Americans had been fully vaccinated, more than 62% of the eligible population.

Research indicates that increasing those numbers would save thousands of lives.

A team led by Drs. Sumedha Gupta of Indiana University and Christopher Whaley of the Rand Corp. issued a report last month estimating the COVID vaccines had saved more than 139,000 lives in the first five months they were available.

The United States had seen about 570,000 COVID-19 deaths by May 9, and the study estimated that number would have reached 709,000 without the vaccines.

In his remarks, the president announced policies requiring most federal employees to get a vaccination and pushing businesses with more than 100 workers to offer employees a choice: Get a vaccine or be tested weekly.

“We’re in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while,” the president said

Georgetown University’s Dr. Jesse Goodman, a former chief scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told Reuters the mandates the president announced should help to reduce future deaths and ease stress on the nation’s healthcare system.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do,” he said. “Ideally, everyone would have been vaccinated already.”

If you’re among the unvaccinated, make an appointment today to get your shot. You’ll be saving lives. Maybe even your own.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at Kelly.hawes@indianamediagroup.com . Find him on Twitter @Kelly_Hawes.

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