COVID in Context: ‘When choices start to affect other people, that’s when mandates become necessary,’ says local ER doctor

Published: Oct. 28, 2021 at 11:56 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - A recent scientific study compares COVID-19 adult vaccination rates of Texas (55%) and New England states (74%) as of July 31. Using those statistics and COVID-19 transmission models, the researchers conclude that if Texas had that 74 percent vaccination rate, the state would have avoided about 650,000 cases, 38,000 hospitalizations, and 6,300 Texan deaths related to the virus.

Dr. Lon Young, an emergency medicine physician in Bryan-College Station, says this study simply puts numbers to what scientists already knew: the vaccine works.

“If we could get our vaccination rate up to the 74 percent rate, we could have thousands more Texans alive, thousands more that didn’t suffer, and all the families that are impacted,” said Dr. Young on Brazos Valley This Morning Thursday. “It put actual numbers to the impact that the vaccine could have if we could get our vaccine numbers up to where they are in some of the other states.”

Dr. Young says local vaccination rates appear to have plateaued around this mid-50s percentage mark–not high enough for herd immunity. He says the large number of unvaccinated residents is why the pandemic still exists locally.

“With the Delta variant for example, each case would infect, on average, nine other people,” said Young. “So when a person decides not to get vaccinated, with something as contagious as the Delta variant, they’re almost deciding to get infected. And when they decide to get infected, they have decided to infect about nine other people. And then those nine go out and infect nine others.” The cycle continues, Dr. Young says. “The problem becomes not the individual autonomy but the fact that them making that choice impacts so many other people.”

This is why Dr. Young says a different approach is needed.

“The voluntary vaccination program is not working,” said Dr. Young. “It would be nice if people would voluntarily go and get the vaccine, and that’s where we started. We have tried…and we have just reached the limit.”

That’s where mandates enter the conversation.

“We know from historical data, including with this epidemic, that a mandate will get vaccine rates usually above 90 percent,” Dr. Young said. “If we could get vaccine rates in our community and in our state above 90 percent...we wouldn’t even have to talk about COVID anymore. It would be gone.”

He isn’t the only doctor discussing mandates. The American Medical Association, the largest physician organization in the country, supports a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Dr. Young explains why.

“When people choose not to get vaccinated, they’re essentially choosing to keep COVID in our community, and all of us are impacted by that,” Dr. Young said. “It’s not just an individual choice: when people’s choices start to affect other people, that’s when laws and mandates become necessary.”

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