Why the unvaccinated are taking a political stand

Unvaxxed

Back in early January of this year, I was pretty excited to snag an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccination at Mercy Hospital. Nimble fingers and computer savvy allowed me to find a time on the county health department website and complete the registration form before someone beat me to it.

So, I was able to secure both doses of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of January. Mercy ran the operation incredibly well and only allowed us to enter the facility within 15 minutes of our appointment.

That meant there were virtually no lines. Much appreciated, Mercy.

Similar vaccination sites were set up around the city, including a giant operation at the fairgrounds that could vaccinate hundreds at a time.

Then what happened?

Despite evidence that shows the COVID vaccines are incredibly effective, the numbers of people flocking to vaccine sites quickly dwindled. Health care providers anticipating a crush of people seeking protection from the potentially deadly COVID virus sat idly, waiting for patients who never arrived.

The need for vaccination sites that could handle hundreds at a time evaporated and most closed up shop. Now you can schedule a vaccination at your local Walgreens or CVS and have no trouble finding open time slots.

Oklahoma vaxxedI just peeked at the numbers, and while 46 percent of my fellow Oklahomans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, less than 40 percent of us have been fully vaccinated against COVID.

Those are pretty disappointing numbers, but I’m not surprised.

Just like wearing of masks over the past 15 months or so, getting the vaccine has been turned into a political statement. And we’re a Red state.

When I hear people say they don’t trust the vaccine or how it was developed, that’s not the real message I’m receiving.

To me, there’s no doubt that these are the same people who supported Donald Trump and bought into his BS about the COVID-19 pandemic being a hoax, yada, yada, yada.

Sure, there may be some people who are merely procrastinating.  But when you look at maps that show low rates of vaccination, the standout states with low numbers match up pretty well with the Red states that supported Trump.

And we’re watching COVID infections rise dramatically in the Trump hotbed states like Missouri, across the South and in Oklahoma.

So, what are the implications?

Well, we’ll watch our neighbors and our elderly relatives get sick. Some will die.  Even those of us who are vaccinated are at risk of infection because of our unvaccinated fellow Oklahomans.

All because of their proud vaccine resistance that has its roots in the Trump insanity.

A story in today’s edition of The Oklahoman reports a new poll that shows that the majority of unvaccinated Americans say they do not plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows 56.5% of Americans have gotten at least one dose, and 43.5% have not received one. Of those people, a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 35% say they probably will not get the vaccine, and 45% say they definitely will not.”

As one who is proudly vaccinated, I reluctantly keep my mask at hand. I fear more disruptions loom in our future. All because of the unwilling who are making a political statement by shunning the vaccine.

So, what’s the point of all of my rambling?

What we’re seeing in the unvaccinated is a collective display of the Ugly American. The me-first. The selfish who would never consider doing something for the greater good.

That’s ‘merica. That’s “freedom,” as defined by Oklahoma Gov. Stitt.

Sadly, the pandemic is far from over. And it’s no fault but our own.

IMMY brings new tools to state fight against Coronavirus

OCAST interview with IMMY about COVID-19 testing from OCAST on Vimeo.

 
Editor’s note: I recently was invited to a virtual meeting with Sean Bauman, Ph.D., CEO of Norman’s IMMY, and facilitated by Debbie Cox of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). This is the report I filed after the Zoom interview.

When the Coronavirus pandemic made its way to Oklahoma in March, the state’s ability to test suspected COVID-19 virus infections in Oklahomans was limited by the number of tests available to health care providers.

And when patients were tested, health care providers had to wait days for results to be returned from out-of-state laboratories.

“The turnaround time was just a big problem,” said Sean Bauman, Ph.D., president and CEO of IMMY (Immuno-Mycologics, Inc.), a diagnostic manufacturing company based in Norman. Bauman recently joined OCAST’s governing board, the Oklahoma Science and Technology Research and Development (OSTRaD) Board.

“You have a patient sitting in a hospital, and you are having to don and doff Personal Protection Equipment numerous times a day to care for that patient,” Bauman said. “And to get a COVID negative result three to five days later, you can imagine how much the wasted PPE costs.”

So, IMMY stepped up to develop a solution at its Norman laboratories. It developed and validated a nasal swab-based test known as PCR that allowed laboratories to provide results in a matter of hours.

“We dove in and literally from idea to reporting our first test result was 10 days,” Bauman said. “Crazy fast.”

But not crazy as in sloppy or low quality, Bauman clarified. IMMY was able to quickly develop its own test because it is an FDA and ISO manufacturing facility in a highly regulated industry. Its 85 employees are skilled professionals capable of overcoming challenges to develop a test to FDA standards.

“The other thing that happened, we had an incredible partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Health,” Bauman said. “They were fantastic, helped us get up-and-running as fast as we could. Just a great story of partnership.”

Gov. Stitt visits IMMY labs in Norman (photo from News9 video)

IMMY since has added a blood test for COVID-19 antibodies, which can confirm if a person has had the coronavirus and is potentially immune to further infection.

Bauman was part of Gov. Stitt’s recent press conference announcing the implementation of testing for COVID-19 antibodies. Stitt also toured IMMY’s Norman campus. 

“This is actually an important test, in my opinion, because Oklahoma is now in a unique position, with both the antibodies test and the PCR test at our disposal,” he said. “So, two tools in the tool belt.”

IMMY’s tests were part of a random sampling of 1,000 Oklahomans in early April to assess how widespread the virus is across the state. The sampling revealed that approximately 1.4 percent of the Oklahoma population had the virus at that time.

So, what does that mean?

“At that point in time, I think the conclusion from the study was that COVID-19 is just not in the general population to any large extent,” he said.

Bauman recommends random sampling across the state for COVID-19 at weekly intervals.

“Now that we have these two tools at our disposal we can start to ask different questions,” he said. “When is it safe for people to go back to work? When is it safe to relax some of the restrictions on people being out and in the community? Lots of different questions are going to be ask in the coming weeks and days.”