Action item: Get your shots already

York Dispatch editorial board

It's taken the delta variant to do it, but some York County residents are finally getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

York County has been vaccine hesitant. Our vaccination rate peaked on April 18, when more than 6,000 county residents received their first shot, and there was a steep drop after that. By July, less than 650 residents were getting their first shots.

That drop off is somewhat misleading, of course. After all, each person only gets the first shot one time, and at that highest rate, all of York County would have received that first shot within 11 weeks.

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Instead, York County vaccinations plateaued for months at around 43% of the population fully vaccinated. After the first wave of people who had been waiting for the vaccines to be approved and then waiting some more for their group to be eligible to receive it — remember just five months ago when there weren't enough appointments available for everyone who wanted a shot? — York County collectively dug in its incredibly stubborn heels and refused the jabs.

But now the delta variant has come along, and some Yorkers have finally realized that there is an easy way to make sure they and their families are safe.

“I think it is a delta variant impact that has made it more pressing in the community,” said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Health Bureau. "A little bit of delta nipping at our heels isn’t what we want, but if it’s leading to more vaccines, that’s a good thing.”

However, while the number of people receiving their first dose in York County has increased, the opposite is true for those needing a second shot to fully vaccinated status.

Continuing a sharp decline since early May, as of Friday, 660 residents per 100,000 people over a 14-day period had received a dose giving them full coverage. That's a 20% decrease from the previous 14-day period, when 824 residents per 100,000 people had received their final dose.

And that's bucking the statewide trend, which has seen 53% of residents fully vaccinated and 66% receiving at least one dose. As of Friday, about 48% of York County residents had been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. About 53.5% had received at least one dose.

Nationally, about 58% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases here is rising again. York County was in the single digits by early July, but now we're seeing 60-plus new cases every day, with a corresponding rise in hospitalizations and deaths. While there is no data on a state or county level on the delta variant, the region that includes Pennsylvania has seen about 72% of COVID-19 cases involve the delta variant.

Susan Klingaman, a nurse with Penn State Health Medical Group, prepares a Moderna vaccine at the York County Food Bank on Monday, May 3, 2021. Tina Locurto photo.

So here's the action item for today: Go get a vaccine, and then go get the second shot too. They're available at pharmacies, at grocery stores, through mobile vaccination sites and many other places. 

If you've already gotten your shots, find someone who hasn't and find out why. Maybe they need a ride to a site. Maybe they need someone to watch the kids while they go. Maybe they just need a reminder that it's important.

There are lots of conspiracy theories surrounding the vaccine, but here's the truth: The COVID-19 vaccine saves lives. The vaccines are about 95% effective at stopping people from becoming infected with the coronavirus, and those who do have breakthrough infections are far less likely to be hospitalized, be intubated or die, according to the CDC. 

We have a way to stop this illness that has killed 840 York County residents in the past 18 months. Get your shots already.