If you think of the COVID-19 pandemic in horse racing terms, it could be said we are coming out of the final turn.
Cases are down from where they were at the beginning of the year and the nation’s vaccination program is making steady progress. As of this week, roughly 30 percent of adults in the U.S. have been vaccinated. About 900,000 of Mississippi’s 2.1 million adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced the vaccine is now available to anyone over age 16.
While our state’s performance in terms of other precautions — mask wearing, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings — has been inconsistent, it appears the vaccination program, at this point, has been well-received and executed.
Mississippi may have broken poorly from the starting gate, but the vaccination program has allowed the state to position itself square in the middle of the pack as we round the turn and head for home.
But as horse-racing fans will tell you, the race is won or lost in the home stretch, so in many respects how we do in the ensuing months will determine just how successful we will be.
Unlike horse races, we are not competing against each other, but as a group against a common foe.
Winning will be determined by our nation’s ability to reach herd immunity, the point at which the virus is starved of the hosts required to sustain it. Epidemiologists say that to ensure the virus dies away, we need an immunity rate of 80 to 90 percent, either through vaccination or from prior infection.
As noted, 30 percent of U.S. adults have been vaccinated. Another 10 percent (29.5 million) have been infected.
That means we are well on our way toward that 80 percent magic number.
Of the two means of getting to that herd immunity, the best is, of course, by vaccination and a big part of that effort will be convincing people of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
According to Pew Research data, two of the most common reasons people offer for not getting the vaccine are concerns about side effects (90 percent) and concerns about its efficacy (80 percent).
Health experts, along with state and national leaders, celebrities and social media influencers, are trying to convince people those vaccine fears are unfounded.
But, as is often the case, the best marketing tool for the vaccine is word of mouth.
If you have had the vaccine, we encourage you to share your experience with those in your sphere of influence — friends, family members, co-workers.
What we have learned is that the side effects — the one reason given most often for not getting the vaccine — have been mild and short-lived.
That’s likely to be your experience, too, and sharing it may yet persuade the holdouts, which pushes us a stride closer toward the finish line.
As we have advocated since the beginning, we also urge everyone — even those who have been vaccinated — to continue to observe the established precautions, including mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
Almost 7,000 Mississippians have died from COVID-19. That’s more than enough.
So, as the finish line at long last comes into view, let’s not falter, but instead redouble our efforts as we strain for the wire.