In 1971, John Kerry, then a Navy veteran-turned-antiwar-activist, told a US Senate committee about the horrors of the Vietnam War, posing the devastating question: How can we ask someone “to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
With the US in the midst of a Covid spike caused by the Delta variant, the “last mistake” for many could be a failure to get one of the highly effective vaccines — and to mask up. Those two simple precautions are especially vital as the school year begins.
“The best way to stop the spread of Covid-19 is for everyone 12 and above to get the vaccine,” wrote Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. But vaccines for younger students aren’t approved yet. “To help prevent the spread of Covid-19, which could send everyone home to quarantine for weeks at a time,” Beers argued, “schools should also require everyone to wear a face mask, regardless of vaccination status.”
The disease’s fourth wave is “causing trouble throughout the country, with some areas seeing more daily infections than ever before,” wrote infectious disease expert Dr. Kent Sepkowitz. And this is before “millions of unvaccinated pre-teens are marched off to school, many unmasked and undistanced. This will likely lead to more spread and more soul-crushing tragedy, much of it vaccine-preventable.
And what about the variants of the disease to come — will they be able to elude the protections provided by vaccines? “No one knows. No one can know,” Sepkowitz observed.
On the plus side, nearly 70% of eligible Americans have received at least a single dose of vaccine, he noted, and “within a few months, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is likely to approve the current mRNA vaccines for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in pre-teens. There are only so many unvaccinated people at this point who can get infected. While breakthrough cases certainly do happen, they remain a small minority of overall cases — at least for now.”
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