It is not the end of this terrible pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 of our fellow Americans in less than a year, including more than 150 just here in Frederick County.

But the arrival of a safe and effective vaccine looks like it is the beginning of the end.

The protection of our front-line health care workers and first responders — those brave folks who have risked their lives to take care of the sick and dying — has begun, as they are receiving the first doses of the new vaccine. Soon, if all goes well, within a few weeks they will be out of the danger zone at last.

Next will come elderly nursing home residents and their dedicated caregivers, who have suffered the worst effects of the coronavirus. By some estimates, 40 percent of those 300,000 deaths occurred among this most-vulnerable population.

While the details are still being worked out, next will come other essential workers. Since it is definitely essential for the educational development of our children that they get back into the classrooms as quickly as possible, teachers and other school staff should be high on the list of recipients.

Next, in some scientifically valid order, will come the rest of us, including older folks still living on their own and those with pre-existing conditions, and finally everyone who did not fit into an earlier category.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top doc, thinks we should achieve a stable immunity in the population before the end of 2021. Let us hope that, once again, Dr. Fauci is correct. It cannot come too soon.

As the death toll has mounted and mounted by several thousand every day, many of us have almost become inured to the horrors we are witnessing. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said we might lose 3,000 people every day for months because too many people continue to minimize the risk of the virus and refuse to wear a mask.

The Russian dictator Josef Stalin is often quoted as saying that the death of one man is a tragedy, but the deaths of millions is a statistic. It is likely not accurately attributed, but it nonetheless has the ring of truth. In March, we mourned every death, but now we note them but are not bereft unless we know the victim.

Some people have advocated for leaving society open on the false promise that if enough people got sick with the virus, it would lead to “herd immunity” and stop spreading. Of course, some scientists estimated that two million or more people might be killed before immunity was reached.

Thankfully, the vaccine gives us another, less deadly route to the herd immunity. If we can vaccinate enough people — perhaps 70 percent of the population, according to Fauci’s estimate — we can achieve the same goal with far fewer deaths.

All of us should take the same attitude toward getting the vaccine that we did toward wearing masks — it may be a pain, but we need to do this. Gov. Larry Hogan frequently says: Just wear the damn mask. Just take the damn vaccine, too.

This Christmas will be hard, just as hard if not worse than Thanksgiving was, marking the family holiday season with little or no family interactions. It will be a lonely holiday for many people, especially the hundreds of thousands of families mourning their losses. Remember them when you have Christmas dinner with a handful of people rather than 20. It could be a lot worse.

But the path forward seems clearer than it has in a long, long time. Keep the faith, keep wearing the mask, get vaccinated, and next year, we will have a reason to celebrate again.

(6) comments

Reader1954

grocery workers should be ahead of teachers

DickD

With up to 200 million vaccinations by the end of March, all the health care, first responders and many of those over 65 will be vaccinated. Fauci is being very conservative, we should be at or close to herd immunity by the end of June, maybe sooner.

vodalone

I hope so, but this all depends on how long the vaccine lasts. If it only lasts 6 months and people start being re-infected again that throws a huge wrench into herd immunity. If those most vulnerable to the disease take the vaccine, that will greatly reduce hospitalizations and deaths to negligible numbers where it doesn't affect us as a society anymore.

bosco

Depending on how long the vaccine lasts, we may end up seeing titer tests for Covid as part of our regular checkups. Many vaccines require a periodic booster - such as tetanus - while others require a booster after a titer test - such as rabies vaccine.

[ninja]

Greg F

The efficacy of this vaccine is expected to be 9-12 months minimum, that I have gotten from NIH and other sources. That's a minimum as the reaction to create it is from a sufficient enough volume of material to create a stronger defense in the first place than a minor glancing blow that may just give you minor symptoms or none...or not be enough to really cause a systemic infection. Fortunately, they are finding the vials of vaccine are enough for 5-7 uses and FDA has cleared the leftover from the initial vaccination to be used for others since it is drawn from a sterile source and no secondary needle is inserted after initial use. That will help significantly, and make initial doses go much further than planned. The thing that is not helping is the near disaster of a shipping crisis from USPS/UPS/FedEx now that is gridlocking the system and likely to delay any shipments to getting anywhere in a timely manner. See the WAPO story on that as linked. This is squarely on Trump who hired DeJoy - who then took out sorting machines and has yet to replace them or make a plan to accommodate for what damage he did to foil the election, which is now having an effect on everyone shipping anything anywhere. Yet Trump remains silent. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/12/15/postal-service-holiday-packages-delays/

gabrielshorn2013

GregF, you are correct about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. However, what does the USPS have to do with vaccine distribution? That is handled by the US military via FedEx and UPS, and the vaccine has priority over all other parcels. According to previous reports, the USPS sorting machines had a utilization rate of between 32 and 38%, meaning that they sat idle between 68 and 62% of the time. Besides, the removed sorting machines were for flat mail ((letters), not packages. The USPS still has excess capacity for letters, so the removal of unused/underused equipment for such items is irrelevant. By your own reference, e-commerce is up by 33% this year due to online shopping that requires the delivery services of UPS, FedEx, USPS, and now Amazon delivery services. The situation is just unprecedented.

https://about.usps.com/newsroom/statements/082120-just-the-facts-six-things-to-know-about-the-usps.htm#:~:text=The%20Postal%20Service%20has%20always,handle%20spikes%20in%20mail%20volume.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/08/20/postal-service-mail-sorters-removals/

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