Untitled watercolor by Adra Fisher
Untitled water­col­or by Adra Fisher (Click to enlarge)

Three sum­mers into the pan­dem­ic now, I should be used to it, but I’m not. In fact, as my own COVID-19 fatigue grows and mutates, it seems to be get­ting worse. Not the pan­dem­ic itself, mind you, but our col­lec­tive response to it.

How, I won­der, is it pos­si­ble that as a soci­ety we con­tin­ue to dis­count and nor­mal­ize the car­nage wrought by a virus that we know how to mit­i­gate but find it too per­son­al­ly, pro­fes­sion­al­ly, and polit­i­cal­ly incon­ve­nient to do so?

Yes, I know, most of us are “done … over it … no longer will­ing to live in fear or have our lives dis­rupt­ed any longer … “ and yet, the poor­est, most mar­gin­al­ized, and vul­ner­a­ble among us are still get­ting sick and dying at rates that seem pret­ty unac­cept­able to me.

How is it okay that just last week the KY COVID-19 Weekly Report dat­ed Sept. 12, 2022 said 119 Clark Countians con­tract­ed COVID-19 (actu­al case num­bers are cer­tain­ly much high­er due to unre­port­ed home test­ing results and the asymp­to­matic) and 65 Kentuckians died from it in a sev­en-day period?

Most peo­ple I know — and there are many — who have test­ed pos­i­tive late­ly ful­ly recov­ered with­in a week. But all those folks were vac­ci­nat­ed with the orig­i­nal two-shot vac­cine and, in many cas­es, the two mono­va­lent boost­ers. The non-vac­ci­nat­ed peo­ple I know who got sick pulled through, too — for­tu­nate­ly — being oth­er­wise healthy indi­vid­u­als and not elderly.

But not every­one is young and healthy. So here’s a ques­tion: Do we feel any oblig­a­tion to help the most vul­ner­a­ble among us? Do we even want to?

I’m not sure I want to know our col­lec­tive answer, but I hope it is a com­pas­sion­ate and resound­ing “Yes!”

If it is, there’s some­thing we can do, accord­ing to the med­ical experts who appeared on KET’S Sept. 12 Kentucky Tonight pro­gram. To para­phrase the chair of UK’s Department of Immunology and Molecular Genetics, Ilhem Messaoudi, Ph.D: While it’s impor­tant to get the elder­ly and immuno­com­pro­mised vac­ci­nat­ed, it’s MORE impor­tant that every­one else get vac­ci­nat­ed and boost­ed with the new biva­lent vac­cine that recent­ly became avail­able from Pfizer and Moderna.

Why?

Because, Messaoudi explained, vac­ci­nat­ing immuno­com­pro­mised folks doesn’t guar­an­tee they will gen­er­ate strong immune respons­es, which makes them par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble to infec­tion and trag­ic out­comes. But if we who are “immune com­pe­tent” get all our shots, we can pro­vide a “force field” around our most vul­ner­a­ble fel­low human beings, there­by pro­tect­ing them in ways they can­not pro­tect themselves.

Dr. Fadi Al Akhrass, med­ical direc­tor of Infectious Disease and Infection Prevention at Pikeville Medical Center, put it more blunt­ly: “Nobody is safe until every­body is safe. Some peo­ple are, unfor­tu­nate­ly, ful­ly depen­dent on our immu­ni­ty to be pro­tect­ed, so we need to keep that spir­it in mind. Boosting the immune sys­tem against BA.5, main­ly, is very important.”

Makes sense to me. But do we care enough to actu­al­ly do it?

The cit­i­zens of Clark County are among the most gen­er­ous peo­ple I know. But our com­mu­ni­ty dis­ease lev­el con­tin­ues to be high while our vac­ci­na­tion rates remain low. Since the pan­dem­ic began, we have lost numer­ous friends and neigh­bors to a dis­ease that we know how to stop. Countless oth­ers among us con­tin­ue to endure ill­ness, iso­la­tion, and lost time from school, work, and loved ones. We are all worn out, and while “life goes on” is a com­mon refrain I hear these days, is this real­ly how we want to live?

Vaccines and the new biva­lent boost­ers are avail­able all over town now. I got mine recent­ly and hope you will get yours too. Let’s all step up and take care of each oth­er — like the com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple that we are.


Click on the fol­low­ing link to watch the entire one-hour episode of Kentucky Tonight in which the med­ical experts men­tioned above, plus Baptist Health Lexington infec­tious dis­ease spe­cial­ist Dr. Mark Dougherty, dis­cuss COVID-19, mon­key­pox, and influen­za with pro­gram host Renee Shaw:

https://www.pbs.org/video/covid-19-monkeypox-and-influenza-ejmthu/

You can also view the KY COVID-19 Weekly Report at https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dph/covid19/COVID19DailyReport.pdf

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    Adra Fisher grew up in Winchester, moved away in her ear­ly 20s and returned a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry lat­er. She enjoys all types of art and encour­ag­ing oth­ers to live creatively.