Crack of Dawn

A physician prepares COVID-19 vaccines at a clinic hosted by Bakersfield College.

[The following article was published as a Community Voices op-ed in the Bakersfield Californian on March 11, 2021]

It’s been a long time coming. Spring this year seems to have bounce in its step. The pandemic seems to be slipping in the rearview mirror.

As a bonus, the flu virus yielded to COVID-19 precautions and called in “sick.” We have virtually no flu this year. Prevailing preventative measures that effectively eliminated flu, in the face of continued rampage by COVID-19, is a testament to remarkably high contagiousness of COVID-19. A contagiousness that can be only contained through a relentless campaign of near universal vaccination.

Virus hesitancy is emerging now as our current and present challenge.

A high rate of infection in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic hugely burdened the country. These upfront costs are now turning into investments. Between confirmed and asymptomatic infections, there are roughly 100 million Americans with a spectrum of immunity.

Increasing vaccinations and a substantial base of naturally immunized bring us proximate to community immunity, ahead of schedule. Remember immunity to the SARS-2 virus was a burning question this time last year. Development of vaccines that would be safe and effective was a figment of hope. An accelerated schedule condensed into a matter of months, a first in vaccine development.

We did incur huge losses in life, health, education, business, career development and economy in general. The damage, both widespread and disparate, could have been worse still.

Science saved us. Until now, a relatively stable virus allowed us a path forward. Lately, the virus has been exhibiting its evolutionary genius. Its variants latch on better, evade adaptive immunity of previous infection, skirt the vaccine and pack a more pungent punch. The cat and mouse game is on.

It is well established that the most effective way to limit variants is to limit virus replication, by limiting virus spread. Vaccination limits infections by eliminating vulnerability. Preventative measures limit infections by keeping the virus at a bay.

As vaccine production and access increases, vaccine hesitancy is emerging as the next challenge.

Vaccine hesitancy is multifold.

There is a well choreographed effort by the anti-vaxxers, piggy backed by usual social media instigators and hostile actors from across the world. These actors can barely hold their glee as we self destruct in an intransigent melee.

No, the vaccine won’t give you a third eye. Bill Gates has not invented nano particles with embedded video cameras to record all your moves.

The argument of rushed development for political reasons is looking tired. Vaccine development is the result of genius and indefatigable efforts of scientists and leadership involved in Operation Warp Speed.

Both Presidents Trump and Biden have taken the vaccine with their spouses. That’s vaccine bipartisanship. Let’s build on it.

When seen through the prism of fetal cell, a vaccine can be a hard hill to climb for the faithful. Borrowed breaths from a compromised conscience can be a corrupt bargain. Facts are at variance though. There is no component of immortalized lineage of lab grown cells, derivatives of remote fetal tissue, that is incorporated in the vaccine and injected into the human body. The Vatican has made its position clear. There is decency and divinity in saving human life. The vaccinated are less likely to spread the virus to the vulnerable and more likely to protect by literally being a human shield between the virus and the vulnerable. The concept of greater good encouraged by the Vatican is by no means an endorsement of birth control but pandemic control. Pope Francis took the vaccine.

The high contagiousness of COVID-19 and its evolutionary versatility demands a very high percentage of public immunity to get over the hump.

Now is not the time to sit on the fence and allow the virus to morph. The vaccinated are protected and protect. Vaccine hesitancy is counter to civic responsibility. The crack of dawn is an invitation to step outside and live life to its fullest. Let’s avail it.

Time to be all aboard.

Adios Team Virus.

Salud Team America.