Letter: Public health and individual choices | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: Public health and individual choices

Several recent letters to the editor in Steamboat Pilot & Today concern individual choice around vaccinating against COVID-19. The concepts of public health and individual choices are both valid concepts, but they are different.

Public health aims to relieve human suffering on the scale of the population. It studies large groups of people in order to find commonalities that might explain factors contributing to a widespread disease and offers advice on how to avoid that disease on both the population and individual level.

Public health orders are given only when many lives are at stake.

Many people feel strongly that all of us should get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to 1. lower opportunities for the virus to mutate, 2. slow the spread, 3. keep hospitalizations low, 4. keep human suffering low, 5. have fewer people with long-haul COVID-19 and 6. avoid as many deaths as possible.

A newly released CDC study found that persons once infected with COVID-19 (even a mild case) have a 59% higher chance of dying of various causes within six months. Their deaths may be recorded as strokes, heart attacks or other reasons. It does give one pause to think about this. COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of heart disease and cancer that used to be our No. 1 causes of death.

Many other people feel strongly that they have a choice in whether or not to get the vaccine. Everyone in the U.S. has a choice. Some few people have health conditions that preclude receiving a vaccine. But for the great majority of us, the vaccines are safe and effective. The many rumors being spread about the vaccine are simply untrue.

Public health tries to eliminate diseases where possible. We eradicated smallpox through vaccinations. We are on the cusp of eradicating polio through improved sanitation and vaccinations. It now seems unlikely that we can eradicate COVID-19, but we can reduce its spread, lower the probability that it will mutate to even more deadly forms and save lives — if we become widely vaccinated.

Yes, the choice of whether to vaccinate is yours. When you choose to vaccinate, you are helping everyone in our community and around the world.

Paul Hebert

Steamboat Springs

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