Blog | Friday, August 20, 2021

How do we reach herd immunity against COVID-19?


Last week I conjectured that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) obfuscated when they recently recommended that vaccinated individuals resume indoor masking under certain circumstances. My speculation was that the policy was justified but that the CDC was not forthcoming in explaining the rationale for the policy revision.

The revised re-masking recommendation, as with every other aspect in this pandemic, has only further polarized a nation that seems to be trying very hard not to heal itself literally and politically. I predict that our collective political affliction will long outlast the coronavirus plague.

I routinely ask patients if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Recently, a patient replied that has not received one. I asked what his concerns were and he firmly responded that he would never get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Not much space for dialogue here.

The CDC and public health experts admit that masks are not the antidote. The shortest and surest pathway to the other side is for the unvaccinated to vax up. The government hasn't yet figured out a strategy of how to get this done.

Here are 3 options.

Educate the public so they will voluntarily accept the vaccine to protect themselves and rest of us. Highlight the rather incredible safety and efficacy statistics. Begging, pleading and downright bribing may be incorporated into this policy. This has been our current policy which thus far has failed rather spectacularly.

Mandate vaccinations for every eligible person, either immediately or when official Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the vaccines is granted, which is anticipated in the near term. While you might be tempted to choose this option with zeal and enthusiasm, you may wish to consider what may follow the vaccination edict. One of the pandemic's lessons is that Americans, unlike many other countries, are individualists who are not swayed by serving the greater good. A mandate would fuel protests and refusals to succumb to governmental tyranny. Politicians and candidates would pander to this aggrieved group which might serve to elect and re-elect anti-vaxxer officials. The nation might end up being further divided and not much closer to herd immunity.

Discomfit the unvaccinated sufficiently such that the voluntarily accept the vaccine. If concert venues, airlines, restaurants, public transportation, hotels, employers and retail establishments increasing required proof of vaccination for entry, it might serve to induce vaccination compliance.

What have I left out here? What would you suggest? Give it a shot.

This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.