We have all been touched one way or another by the devastating effects and tragic loss of life due to COVID-19. After a year and a half of this virus controlling and taking away lives, vaccines are the only way to stop this pandemic, prevent more dangerous strains from developing, and restore the freedom of safety and normalcy.
In this message from chair and chief executive officer Greg A. Adams, Kaiser Permanente advocates for people to be vaccinated so we can end this pandemic together.
All 3 vaccines have met the rigorous Food and Drug Administration’s safety and efficacy standards to receive emergency use authorization for COVID-19. And we celebrate this week’s announcement of full FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine. The speed by which these amazing vaccines were developed, tested, validated, and manufactured was due to decades of existing vaccine development for other conditions.
So many people were eager to help, and transmission was occurring so fast that data came in quickly for the safety trials. These vaccines should be considered a gift, not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Scientists have concluded the vaccines are extremely safe and effective, with more than 350 million doses safely administered in the U.S. and billions of doses administered worldwide.
Unfortunately, approximately 85 million people in the U.S. are still unvaccinated while the highly infectious coronavirus delta variant spreads at an alarming rate, with the potential to soon undermine the effectiveness of the vaccines. The previous belief that kids do not get COVID-19 and do not get sick from COVID-19 is wrong in the face of the delta variant. This variant is also more than twice as transmissible as the original coronavirus strain. It is so contagious that on average one person infected with it can spread the virus to up to 8 other people before even knowing it — making it nearly impossible to contain. In the face of the delta variant the previous goal of vaccinating 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity no longer applies.
Unvaccinated patients currently represent 85% to 95% of COVID-19 hospital admissions. Our intensive care units are no longer filled with just the most vulnerable. Now we are seeing the young, the previously healthy, and, most concerning, our children. Some will die, unnecessarily. This additional surge of COVID-19 patients comes as hospitals and health care organizations across the country are addressing the implications of care that was delayed or avoided in 2020.
It means again being forced to cancel elective surgeries and limit care for other diseases and emergencies such as cancer, strokes, and heart attacks. It also puts an incredible strain on our already wearied doctors, nurses, and front-line workers who are putting their and their families’ lives and well-being at risk every day. Overwhelming our health care system with a single preventable illness continues a cycle that is not healthy or sustainable.
We are in a race against time and must fast-track our efforts to get more people vaccinated. The politicizing of COVID-19, masks, and vaccines is taking its toll. It is costing jobs, causing businesses to struggle and close again, and taking lives. State and federal governments are doing what they can to work together and to ensure the information we receive about the virus is timely and consistent. But we cannot wait for government leaders to push even farther. Business leaders need to step up, and the private sector must play a role in helping to close the vaccination gap in our communities. After 17 months of this pandemic and more than 630,000 deaths in the U.S., it is our moral obligation to do more.
Leaders of corporations, small businesses, health care providers, schools, and colleges must stop the spread of COVID-19 among employees, customers, and students by mandating vaccination. We are all relieved to have schools opening, but to stay open we need to increase vaccinations to wrap a stronger armor of protection around our kids, protecting those who are too young to get vaccinated themselves.
Cities and counties must require proof of vaccination for indoor activities such as attending concerts and going to restaurants, cafes, bars, and gyms.
Civic organizations and places of worship must leverage their leadership to help keep communities safe by encouraging vaccination, separating vaccinated and unvaccinated people, adhering to recommendations for everyone to be masked in crowded indoor spaces, and making vaccinations available at events and gatherings.
Families, neighbors, and friends must come together as a community to increase vaccination. Reach out to each other with encouragement to increase vaccination rates, share your personal vaccination experiences with others, and offer a ride or support to someone ready to be vaccinated.
All of us need to listen to each other. Understand each other’s concerns. Overcome hesitation and embrace the hope these vaccines represent.
Together, through these actions, we can help put an end to this pandemic and regain freedom from COVID-19 through vaccination. Vaccination prevents our lives from being shut down, hinders another surge, and prohibits stronger and more deadly strains of the virus. No matter what lies ahead with COVID-19, the more vaccinated we are as a community, a nation, and a globe, the safer we will be from this dangerous virus.
Our history has shown us what we can accomplish when a nation comes together. This needs to be one of those times. It is imperative we stop this pandemic, for ourselves, for our families, for our friends, for each other, and for our future.
By Greg A. Adams,