Knowingly or not, people who refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19 without legitimate health reasons are relying on others to bring about herd immunity and end the pandemic instead of doing their part.

By not being vaccinated, they’re also helping the virus mutate into variants that could be more contagious, more deadly and more capable of infecting people who were vaccinated or already had COVID-19.

Medical professionals say around 75% to 85% of the total population should be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

As of Monday, 22.3% (15,269) of Wilkes County’s residents had received at least one dose of vaccine and 15.5% (10,574) were fully vaccinated. Statewide, 38.4% were at least partially vaccinated and 25.2% were fully vaccinated.

We’ve got a long way to go and progress slowed significantly following stages when COVID-19 vaccinations were only available to those 65 and older and people in jobs that made them more apt to be exposed to the virus.

Wilkes Health Director Rachel Willard the health department was able to use only about half (about 600 doses) of the Pfizer vaccine it received for first doses the week before last due to lack of demand.

That was the same week the Wilkes Health Department made the Pfizer vaccine available to everyone 16 and older. There was good reason to expect greater demand with this broadening of eligibility.

Statewide, everyone 16 and older became eligible for vaccination starting today (April 7). Pfizer is licensed for teenagers as young as 16 and currently is the only vaccine approved for people under age 18. Pfizer said its vaccine is 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children 12 to 15.

Johnson & Johnson said Friday that it would start testing its COVID-19 vaccine on adolescents ages 12 to 17.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said recently that vaccination of youths as young as 12 will likely start early in the next school year. Fauci said vaccinating younger juveniles will follow.

Young adults are believed to be a key component of some COVID-19 spikes appearing in other states nationwide in recent weeks and at least one COVID-19 variant appears to be highly transmissible among young adults.

The New York Times recently said that the world is caught in a sprint between variants and getting people vaccinated for COVID-19.

Because each infection gives the coronavirus a chance to evolve still further, it’s essential that vaccinations in the U.S. and elsewhere proceed as fast as possible.

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