Forty thousand Americans died of Covid this summer. That’s an astonishing number for a disease most Americans believe is behind us, for a pandemic we wish is more past than present. We’ve become lax in our hand washing and mask wearing and avoidance of crowds. We’re traveling again, in greater numbers, gathering on beaches and clubs and in each other’s homes. We’ve wanted desperately to eat in crowded restaurants again, and we are, despite an invisible virus that has claimed thousands more of us this summer.
Forty thousand. A swollen death toll added to the more than one million Americans who have perished from Covid-19 since just over two years ago when we became aware that something deadly was happening around us. Within us. When the pandemic began, I posted an article on Facebook warning that this plague would be more horrendous than we imagine, that the initial virus would spawn variants that could be deadlier and more contagious than the original. Some guy responded, labelling me a scare monger. I suppose he could have seen it that way. But I wasn’t wrong.
Covid is still with us. One of dear friends recently caught it again. He’d had it before but wasn’t that ill. The second time around he was in bed for more than a week and still has little energy. It knocked him flat. He will survive. This time. Maybe not the next. Maybe Covid will keep visiting him until it adds another notch to its grim tally. He had recently taken a long journey, on multiple airplane flights, and returned home with an unwelcome companion. His plight reinforced my decision to drive if I want to travel anywhere, to avoid airplanes like the plague, to use that worn-out but appropriate cliché. The airlines claim it is safe to travel through the air. But their insular silver tubes with wings seem more like disease incubators to me. I won’t fly soon. When I do, I’ll be one of the few wearing a mask.
One reason Covid has hung around like the uncle whose jokes are worse than his breath, the one everyone wishes would leave, is that too many of us refuse to be vaccinated. Their rationale varies—vaccines were developed too quickly and don’t work; vaccines cause autism; getting vaccinated is against my religion; vaccines are a government mind-control conspiracy; vaccines alter your DNA; the Covid vaccine makes you magnetic; I’m free, dammit, and I can refuse vaccination if I choose. Some worry that they’ll have an adverse reaction to the vaccine, never mind the grim reaper the vaccine is meant to forestall. The religious objection is immune to any logical retort, so I’ll address only the issue of vaccination hesitancy due to the fear of an adverse reaction.
First, some facts. Since the pandemic began, 608.7 million people in 192 countries have been infected and 6.5 million people worldwide have succumbed to it, including 115,000 health care workers. The U.S. death toll now stands at 1,050,323 (as of September 12, 2022 at 8:30 am ET). About 80 percent of Americans have had the first dose of the Covid vaccine, although a substantial number did not have the second dose or all the available boosters. This means that 20 percent of our population has not been vaccinated. That’s more than 66 million people. No wonder Covid persists.
The odds of having a severe reaction to the Covid-19 vaccine are extremely low, about 1 in 500,000, and those side effects are generally treatable and not serious enough to warrant concern. You are twice as likely to die from a meteorite impact than you are from the Covid vaccine. You are ninety times more likely to be killed by falling furniture, 185 times more likely to die while choking on food, and 4,672 times more likely to die in an automobile accident. Here are the odds of various calamities happening to you during your lifetime*
Dying of heart disease: 1 in 6
Dying of cancer: 1 in 7
Dying from Covid if you catch it: 1 in 88
Dying in an automobile accident: 1 in 107
Dying from a fall: 1 in 114
Dying from drowning: 1 in 1,024
Dying from fire or smoke: 1 in 1,474
Dying while choking on food: 1 in 2,696
Dying while riding a bicycle: 1 in 4,047
Being killed by falling furniture: 1 in 5,508
Dying from an accidental gun discharge: 1 in 8,527
Dying from sunstroke: 1 in 8,912
Dying in a mass shooting: 1 in 11,125
Being killed by lightning: 1 in 15,300
Dying from a bee sting: 1 in 59,507
Dying in a hurricane: 1 in 62,288
Dying from a dog attack: 1 in 69,016
Dying from a meteorite impact: 1 in 250,000
Having a severe reaction to Covid vaccine: 1 in 500,000
Dying from a shark attack: 1 in 3,700,000
Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 11,000,000
As these numbers clearly indicate, the risk of having a bad reaction to the Covid vaccine is extremely low. Of course, some people do, and some may die from complications arising from the vaccine, especially those with existing health complications. However, your odds of dying from Covid if you contract the disease are astronomically greater.
We may never be able to eradicate Covid-19 and its emerging variants. However, if we could vaccinate 95 percent of the world’s population, we might be able to achieve actual herd immunity and make Covid recede to a small but manageable health risk in the future. So why hesitate? If you are not vaccinated, I would strongly urge you to do so, if not for yourself then for the sake of others around you, including your loved ones.
*The sources of these statistics are from various websites. One fascinating statistic I did not list above is that the odds of dying on your birthday are about 1 in 15. Clearly, birthdays are dangerous. I would urge you to avoid them.
Photo credits: woman receiving a Covid vaccine shot: Photo 209278191 © Lacheev | Dreamstime.com; long Covid: Photo 216601602 / Covid © Agenturfotografin | Dreamstime.com; Covid vaccine: Photo 203819205 / Covid © Julián Rovagnati | Dreamstime.com; sunstroke: Photo 114961449 © Viacheslav Dubrovin | Dreamstime.com; bicycle accident: Photo 54649810 / Bicycle Accident © Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com; dice: Photo 17094395 © Bruce Macqueen | Dreamstime.com