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Vaccinations Aid Herd Immunity

There was an alarming report recently out of California from San Quentin Prison. Out of a population of 3,260, there have been 2,200 infections and 25 deaths — the latest being a guard at the prison. About two-thirds of the prison population has been infected but the prison still hasn’t reached “herd immunity.”

The mortality rate at the prison translates to 767 deaths per 100,000. Were that rate to be applied to the entire country, we would be looking at 2.5 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States vs. current deaths of 163,000.

According to an epidemiologist quoted in the same LA Times article, in the absence of a vaccine, “in order to get to something that approaches herd immunity, we’re going to have to get to something well on the far side of 50% of people infected, which comes with a resultant large cost in mortality and severe morbidity.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert, has projected that “it will probably require 50% to 75% of a population to be immune before achieving herd immunity — a goal that should be achieved not just through infected people recovering but also through vaccination.”

Admittedly, the situation at San Quentin is severe–there are a lot of people locked up in a fairly small space so it is easier for the disease to spread. However, it also provides a laboratory on the whole idea of “herd immunity.” The prison continues to have infections, and it still hasn’t yet reached a herd immunity level.

That brings us back to vaccination. Many fewer people will die if we can develop an effective and proven vaccine. That is what we need to hope and pray for.

It would be interesting to know what the COVID statistics are in our own nearby prisons. What has been the experience in the county jail or at the Brocton State Prison? We know that convicted former Congressman Collins has not yet been sent to prison because of COVID concerns. Michael Cohen, President Trump’s formal personal attorney, has been allowed to serve his sentence at home because of similar concerns. The numbers coming out of San Quentin help explain this.

Winter is coming up and that should also concern us. We will be inside with less ventilation. Mother nature is doing to keep us “cooped up,” and too many of us in one place is not a good thing right now.

If we want to keep our kids in school, we will have to stay disciplined with safe distancing and masks. That will have to be our modus operandi until we get the vaccine that we so desperately need.

With all due respect to President Vladimir Putin, I am not ready to be treated with the Russian vaccine which has been rushed into production. Maybe it will work, but I will wait for our own public health officials in the United States to complete their tests on effectiveness and safety before I am vaccinated for the COVID-19 disease.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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