Letting COVID-19 vaccinations stagnate isn't an appealing option
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
A pair of sentences happened to line up together in the latest COVID-19 update I bylined, and their juxtaposition took me down a couple pegs emotionally speaking.
"Another death related to COVID-19 was recorded in the county between the Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 reports, bringing that local total to 52 deaths. Vaccination rates in Dickinson County have changed by less than 3 percent in any given demographic since at least September."
There have now been six new local deaths related to this virus since Sept. 10, and our overall vaccination rate in this county was last reported at 53.2 percent — a little better than half of us. At one time, health officials were hoping we could get that number to 70 percent, but with the variants continuing to have a 50-50 shot at replicating in any given county resident here, I don't know if 70 percent will be enough to actually put the pandemic in the past.
Still, I decided to do the math for us.
The 2020 Census put Dickinson County's population at 17,703, and 70 percent of that would be 12,392. With our current overall vaccination rate, that means about 9,418 county residents have already decided to decrease their likelihood of spreading the virus. That leaves Dickinson County — one of Iowa's smallest — about 2,974 people short of the 70 percent mark.
It doesn't seem like a lot. I mean, that's less than the total population of Milford according to the 2020 Census. But, remember that most of the 65-plus demographic — which accounted for almost 27 percent of the county's population in 2019 — is already vaccinated. And with 85.2 percent of that local demographic already vaccinated, there's less than 700 seniors in the county who haven't got the shot, at least by my math.
So, even if those last few hundred of them did bring their total to 100 percent, it would still leave the county with 2,291 people to go before reaching the recommended (at least previously recommended) 70 percent. Fortunately, there's a pretty big reservoir of folks who can help close that gap (and if you know your pathology, the term was very much intentional). Based off the 2019 Census numbers, there are likely around 9,000 people between 18 and 64 in Dickinson County. The 18-plus demographic has a current vaccination rate of about 63.2 percent locally. It's not quite apples to apples, since 65-year-olds are also over 18, but even by a conservative estimate there should be around 3,300 people age 18-64 in Dickinson County who have yet to be vaccinated — more than we need to reach 70 percent vaccination overall in our county.
Now, I threw a lot of numbers out there just now, but I do this for a reason.
Vaccinations for children 5 and older are now one step closer to becoming a reality. That change will likely add a little more to our local vaccination rate, but here in Dickinson County there were only about 828 people under the age of 5 as of 2019 — leaving about 2,715 in the ages 6-17 crowd. So, even if that age group were to rush for the vaccine clinics, reaching the recommendation would be tight at best and several hundred short at worst.
My point is, this burden falls to folks in my own demographic — that mid-range. The seniors have done just about all they can, and there aren't likely going to be enough teens to get this community across the finish line. So us seemingly-young-and-healthy folks will need to pick up some of the slack. Our other option is to let things remain unchanged, let our rate stagnate a tick or two beyond the midpoint and watch the deaths continue to trickle in bit by bit.
That's not a very appealing option to me.
And I doubt it's very appealing to the local families who have said goodbye to their loved ones over the past couple months.