By now, you’ve likely heard a lot about COVID-19 vaccines — which ones are authorized for use, how they work and the numbers of people across the country who have received them. In fact, those impressive numbers — more than 164 million doses administered and over 130 million people in the U.S. fully vaccinated — along with the significant decreases in COVID-19 cases, may lead you to believe that it’s no longer important to be vaccinated.
However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. And according to the nation’s top experts, the vaccination of millions more Americans is still needed before the country reaches herd immunity and the risk of COVID-19 spreading throughout the population is sufficiently decreased.
Recent CDC data show that many of the unvaccinated in the U.S. are young. While more than 70% of people over 65 in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, just over 25% of adults ages 18 to 29 are fully vaccinated and less than 5% of people under 18 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccination — even for the young — remains vital. Here’s 3 reasons why:
1. The COVID-19 vaccines work.
A real-world study of front-line workers with an increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus who received either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine found both vaccines to be safe and highly effective in preventing COVID-19. They were so effective that participants’ risk of coronavirus infection was reduced by 94% 2 weeks after the second dose was received.
Other studies found the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be nearly 77% effective against severe COVID-19 illness 2 or more weeks after receiving the single-dose vaccine and 85% effective at least 28 days after vaccination.
Regardless of which COVID-19 vaccine people receive, vaccination prevents severe illness that can lead to hospitalization or death. Vaccination also slows the rate of transmission within a population and can stop the development of new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
2. Risk remains high for the unvaccinated.
A recent Washington Post analysis found that when case, death and hospitalization rates are adjusted to account for only the unvaccinated people within a population, the pandemic is spreading as fast among people who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine as it did during the winter surge in many states.
In Washington state, where there is a fourth wave of COVID-related hospitalizations, the chance of hospitalization is 18 times higher in unvaccinated people age 45 to 64. And the state joins the rest of the nation in seeing adults younger than 50 experiencing the most hospitalizations for COVID-19 complications, now representing approximately 35% of all hospital admissions. Experts believe this is due to the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant in the U.S., which may be up to 70% more contagious and is now the dominant strain in the country.
Additionally, children under age 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination. And while serious illness is rare in children, it does occur. Long-term health risks may also be possible after infection, even among children who experienced COVID-19 without any symptoms (asymptomatic). Vaccinating people age 12 and over will help protect younger children, as well as people of all ages who are immunocompromised.
3. Vaccination may be required for some activities.
From concerts to international travel, some activities people enjoyed pre-pandemic may now require full vaccination. Recently, the 27 European Union (EU) countries, including Greece, France, Italy and other popular travel destinations, agreed to allow Americans with proof of COVID-19 vaccination to travel to and within their countries. Several cruise lines will also require passengers to be fully vaccinated to set sail.
In California, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that when the state removes all COVID-19 restrictions June 15, it will still require vaccine verification or results of a negative COVID-19 test given within 72 hours of an event to attend indoor events with crowds of more than 5,000 people. Even some small businesses are requiring vaccination for in-house events and dining.
What’s more, hundreds of U.S. colleges are requiring students to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes or participate in campus activities. And a recent survey found that 88% of employers plan to require or encourage their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Vaccines protect you,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a recent briefing. “They protect your family and they interrupt the chain of transmission of the virus. So, the bottom line, as we’re all saying: Get vaccinated.”
COVID-19 vaccines are free and readily available in San Diego County. Get COVID-19 vaccine information and access to COVID-19 resources from Sharp HealthCare.