Editorial: End the roller coaster ride

Published 10:49 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2021

There was reason for celebration at Rowan Medical Center on Dec. 22, 2020.

Roughly nine months after COVID-19 made its appearance in the county, the hospital received 1,260 doses of the vaccine developed by Moderna — its first shipment. Carla Kennedy, manager of the hospital’s pharmacy, was greeted by cheers from her coworkers waving Novant Health purple and white pom-poms as she walked a box of vials to a cafe that had been converted into a vaccination clinic.

There was hope vaccinations would bring an end to the pandemic that had already claimed too many lives. There was relief a solution to a previously unstoppable pandemic finally arrived in the Salisbury-Rowan community. Doctors and health care workers receiving the vaccine recorded videos of themselves, took pictures and savored the moment because, as Dr. Abayomi Agbebi said, the previous few months had been a roller coaster.

“Every time I have a patient who recovers, it’s just a thing of joy and relief just to see someone recover and go home,” he said. “And then, there’s also the lows when you have patients that just don’t recover to leave the hospital.”

Before Dec. 22, 2020, just 67 Rowan County residents had been vaccinated. In the years since those first vaccines were administered, tens of thousands of our fellow community members have followed suit, deciding the best way to prevent death or hospitalization was to get vaccinated. But many more have shunned vaccinations entirely or decided a previous infection is enough. As a result, the roller coaster the doctors described has continued to bring death and ill health effects.

Today, it seems impossible enough people will be vaccinated to create herd immunity. But health care professionals must continue to try because the alternative is to accept a never-ending roller coaster ride on the way to herd immunity.

While they’re trying, they should avoid statements like one that went viral online from the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients, who said in a press briefing last week, “For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”

Doom and gloom won’t change the minds of people who have already made them up. The best method may be to channel the hope and relief hospital workers felt in late 2020 when they envisioned a future without COVID-19 and the toxic division plaguing all facets of life today.

A community with immunity will be a better place to live.