The pandemic solution many still refuse to accept
Those opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations continue to put our health systems and the public in danger.
Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., is Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Medical School for the University of Michigan. He serves on the Board of Directors for Eli Lilly and Company.
No one has been to blame for COVID-19 – not for contracting the virus or for spreading it – until now.
As the Omicron variant continues to infect people across the country, causing hardship and illness, fear and death, it is clear that those who refuse to get vaccinated are a chief cause of this unnecessary suffering.
Although the Supreme Court struck down a federal government mandate requiring workers at large companies to be vaccinated or tested regularly – while, thankfully, upholding the requirement for healthcare workers – it is imperative that every American become fully vaccinated.
Yes, the vaccinated can get COVID-19 and transmit the disease, but most who do experience a relatively mild illness.
It is the unvaccinated, through their refusal to take advantage of the protections offered by safe and readily available medicine, who are at grave risk.
Unfortunately, they’re not just imperiling their own lives and health. The unvaccinated are a form of human kerosene igniting the rapid spread of COVID-19 among people they encounter.
They are also placing an overwhelming strain on medical resources, putting others at risk by keeping us from delivering lifesaving care to patients battling cancer, heart disease, strokes and other significant health issues.
The Omicron surge appears to have crested in some parts of the country, but it continues to strain the health care system. And new strains of the virus are evolving. At one point in January, our Michigan Medicine system that serves much of our state, had 128 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 33 of them in the ICU and 20 on ventilators. The number of hospitalizations has dropped since then, giving our team members some relief, but Michigan Medicine still had more than 50 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Feb. 11.
Most of these COVID-19 inpatients have been unvaccinated. Only a small number of vaccinated patients hospitalized for COVID-19 have received booster doses.
That steep rise in cases has forced us to cancel more than 300 surgeries since the surge began in December. As a result, many patients are not receiving potentially life-saving care.
Our ability to provide care is compromised in other ways as more of our physicians, nurses and staff fall victim to the virus, creating shortages of employees at Michigan hospitals. More than 1,610 Michigan Medicine employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of 2022.
This same scenario is happening at hospitals across the country. Johns Hopkins reports that COVID-19 patients continue to account for more than a quarter of all patients in ICU beds and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 4,348 deaths involving COVID-19 occurred in the United States during the beginning of February.
This situation is especially tragic because it is so unnecessary.
Around 4.9 billion people around the world have received at least one dose of a vaccine, proving that they are safe and effective. The data also show that refusing the vaccine is not just a personal choice – it affects, and threatens, everyone else.
The bottom line is that people are dying because of uninformed, misinformed and selfish decisions. Vaccines – along with masks, hand washing and appropriate social distancing – offer our best protection against this deadly illness.
If you are not vaccinated, please get your shot today.
If you are partially vaccinated, please get your booster immediately.
The health and safety of everyone depends on it.