We Are Running Out of Time to Vaccinate

Actually, we probably have. I stay away from discussing what will happen nationally because states that are experiencing or will experience outbreaks are like Tolstoy’s unhappy families: they each suffer outbreaks in their own ways. This is why I tend to focus on D.C. when I dive into data: I look at those data daily, and I have some idea what might be happening here. Unfortunately, I’m not feeling optimistic about what is happening in D.C.

Here’s the state of vaccination in D.C. as of Sunday by ward (55.5% of all residents are fully vaccinated citywide according to the CDC):

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The good news is D.C. lacks information on where many vaccinated residents live, so these numbers can be adjusted upwards by thirty percent (i.e., X% becomes 1.3X%). Of course, that assumes missing vaccinees are distributed equally across the wards, which I think is highly unlikely. Instead, they are probably concentrated in the more highly vaccinated wards, so it’s possible that the ‘multiplier’ in the wealthier wards could be forty percent (which would mean the multiplier in Wards 7 and 8 is much lower than thirty percent). Another source of optimism is that Ward 2 is probably five points higher, since the Georgetown and GWU student bodies are mostly absent* (the denominator is much smaller).

But there are two key points:

  1. No ward in D.C. is at eighty percent fully vaccinated, even with optimistic assumptions about the highly vaccinated wards. Eighty percent fully vaccinated still might not be enough, but we’re not even at that threshold anywhere. There is more work to be done, even in the relatively vaccinated areas.
  2. Wards 7 and 8 are catastrophically low. That is reflected in COVID-19 prevalence.

I’ll add a third point, not in the figure: the percentage of fully vaccinated people in D.C. increases by only 0.7% per week (0.1%/day), though the last few days saw daily increases of 0.2%. Even at that improved rate, it will be many, many months before D.C. really approaches ‘herd immunity’ through vaccination especially with Delta surging (though, I suppose, we could get there sooner through naturally-occurring infection***).

My nightmare scenario is that, in a couple of weeks, kids will return to school, spread the virus to each other, and then bring it home and infect their parents. Moreover, the wards with the most children are the wards with the fewest people vaccinated. While masking will help, I’m not sure it will be enough.

Meanwhile, like the Biden administration, the Bowser administration seems hellbent on returning students to classrooms, but without requiring vaccination of students or their parents (or guardians), even though it seems painfully obvious what will happen without vaccination. That Bowser is pushing hard for reopening without vaccination of students twelve and older, as well as mandatory vaccination of all staff should be grounds for removal from office.

It also doesn’t help that the first and second full weeks of school coincide with the Jewish High Holidays** either (D.C. has a sizable Jewish population), and I’m not hearing anything about area synagogues cancelling services and going remote (though a fair number are offering optional video services).

Maybe mandatory indoor masking and decreased indoor dining will cause a significant decrease, but even if it does, September and October look to be really ugly, unless I’m missing something obvious, or a miracle happens. The latter seem to be thin on the ground these days.

If we haven’t run out of time already, we’re very close. We simply don’t have time for people to figure this out on their own in the fullness of time; I would prefer that, but COVID-19 is on the march. We need vaccine mandates now.

*If not, then one has to believe that Georgetown East, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in D.C., really does have a vaccination rate below thirty percent.

**I just don’t see how services can be held in person. You can’t mandate vaccination for entry (are we really telling families with kids under twelve they can’t attend services?), and services go on for a long time (hours). Even with masking, I can’t see that as safe at normal capacity.

***Though, for this to happen, we would need thousands of cases per week for many weeks to get there.

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