As I write this, more than 5.02 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide. In the United States, 364 million doses have been administered, enough to fully vaccinate 51.6 percent of the population (some of the vaccines, of course, require two doses). Although the pace of vaccination has slowed somewhat from highs earlier this year, the daily rate of doses administered in the U.S. is currently at 860,114 — not enough to go back to life as normal any time reasonably soon but not a paltry number either.
It is the biggest vaccination campaign in history (though smallpox vaccination efforts, the March of Dimes’ role in creating the polio vaccine, and a number of other historical vaccination drives have rich and robust histories themselves).
You don’t often get more certainty in life than 5.02 billion of your peers trying something first and having it all work out pretty well for them. Much like getting out of bed in the morning, COVID-19 vaccines are not fully without risk. But they have been found to be extremely safe in the BILLIONS of people they have been given to over the course of many months.
COVID-19, on the other hand, has already killed about one out of every 500 Americans in the last year-and-a-half. While a vaccine won’t necessarily prevent everyone from getting infected, it will typically reduce the severity of symptoms in those who have a breakthrough infection, and a vaccination makes the risk of dying from the disease almost negligible.
If you don’t want a COVID-19 vaccine, you are remarkably bad at risk assessment, and perhaps a career in the insurance industry is not for you. Other than a legitimate medical complication, there is no logical reason to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine.
But there are plenty of illogical ones, and it’s pretty easy to find them all over the internet, unfortunately. Maybe it’s the dumb fear that Bill Gates wants to waste time to microchip a secretary in Ohio, even though we’re all already carrying chip-laden smartphones around in our pockets every day and despite the fact that microchips cannot be injected through a tiny needle in liquid form. Maybe it’s just the supposedly principled stance that you don’t want to be forced to accept a medical intervention that will keep you from dying a horrible death while spreading your illness to others, even though the Supreme Court has stated that individual liberty is not absolute in upholding compulsory vaccination laws for over a century and even though George Washington himself ordered that his troops get inoculated against smallpox. Unless it came from their doctor, whatever someone’s reason for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s a bad one.
Humoring the conspiracy-minded about their COVID-19 vaccine fantasies might be fine if they were only hurting themselves by not getting the shot. But that is not how infectious disease works, and it’s pretty obvious that unvaccinated people more likely to get the disease are also more likely to spread it.
The human toll of needless deaths and hospitalizations is undoubtedly the worst part about vaccine hesitancy. But there are tremendous monetary costs as well, and those are being born by all of us, not just the unvaccinated. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released an analysis which found that in June and July alone, more than 100,00 hospitalizations for COVID-19 could have been prevented had there been higher adult vaccination rates. These extra hospitalizations cost the U.S. health system at least $2.3 billion. Kaiser used very conservative figures for its analysis and said that the true cost is likely even higher.
Only “a small share of the cost” of that billion-plus dollars a month will be paid directly by the unvaccinated. All the rest of us are footing the bill for most of it, in the form of higher insurance premiums, more tax burdens, and prolonged pandemic-related economic stagnation.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to be done with pandemic restrictions, and I’m certainly ready to be done paying extra money so that conspiracy theorists can flout the rules of logic in the name of their supposed liberty. The rest of us enjoy liberty too, like, for instance, the liberty to not have to pay to hook you up to a ventilator because you caught what is now an easily preventable disease. If those who could get vaccinated would get vaccinated, we’d be done with this pandemic, at least in the United States. We’d be done paying for it too.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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