If you are among the roughly 30% of eligible New Mexicans who for whatever reason have chosen not to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus that has claimed the lives of more than 4,360 New Mexicans and led to thousands of hospitalizations, you are playing a potentially dangerous game.
And the odds are stacked against you.
Admittedly, the vaccines aren’t perfect. They don’t block every single infection. In a statistically insignificant number of cases there have been potentially serious side effects. But as data are accumulated every week it’s become increasingly clear the vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing serious illness and death.
State Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase on Wednesday said over the past five months 98% of confirmed virus cases in New Mexico have been among unvaccinated people. Nationally, The Associated Press reported as of June 29 nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were unvaccinated people – a staggering demonstration of how effective the vaccines have been. Even those who get “breakthrough” infections don’t tend to be as sick. The AP analysis found only 1.1% of people hospitalized nationally had been fully vaccinated.
Yes, some deaths have been reported among people who got the vaccine, along with a small number of confirmed cases of cardiac issues and blood clots. But more than 334 million doses have been administered in the United States.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in Santa Fe on Wednesday many unvaccinated people believe myths the vaccine can lead to infertility, cause mutations in DNA and even infect people with the virus. “We’re seeing the scale and speed of misinformation spread really increase,” he said.
As of Friday, 63.9%, or 1.038 million, had completed their vaccination series – two shots of Pfizer or Moderna or one J&J. More than 44% of New Mexicans ages 12 to 17, roughly 73,780 teens, have received at least one dose. The vaccine has not yet been approved for children under 12. Good numbers overall, but the state administered only 14,789 doses in the last seven days.
The state has worked to incentivize vaccination along with sharing factual information. The Vax 2 the Max sweepstakes is making $10 million in prize money available to New Mexicans who get vaccinated throughout the summer. There is still time to sign up at cv.nmhealth.org/covid-vaccine/.
The University of New Mexico, which considered and rejected mandatory vaccines for students returning to campus 38 days from now, unveiled a smart incentive program Thursday. The university is offering students $100 to be transferred into their bursar account. All they have to do is upload proof of their vaccine – whether “you get your shot today or received it months ago.” Vaccinated faculty and staff will be entered in a drawing for 50 $1,000 prizes.
In announcing the campaign, President Garnett Stokes said the university is returning to in-person classes and group activities that are a “vital part of a vibrant campus experience.” “Getting vaccinated is the best thing you can do to ensure our campus and our community remain safe and remain open,” she wrote. And isn’t getting back to normal and doing the things we love with a high degree of safety from this virus a goal all should share?
The virus isn’t gone. The more infectious Delta variant is here. There are still people in the hospital and people dying. But the good news is there is protection. This weekend is a chance for New Mexicans who haven’t scheduled their free and readily available vaccination (barring some medical condition) to reflect on the odds, consider the facts and do something for themselves, their loved ones and the community. And maybe even hit the jackpot. Get the shot.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.