Talking Points

Vaccination is not a personal choice

Low-vaccination states like Florida and Texas are continuing to set new records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, taxing their already-beleaguered medical systems to their limits. At this stage of the pandemic, though, it is mostly the unvaxxed who are getting sick — and even the very few vaccinated people who are experiencing "breakthrough infections" are usually much less sick than they would have been if they hadn't received their shots.

Should vaccinated Americans chill out, then?

Patrick Ruffini, a Republican pollster, thinks so. He thinks the unvaxxed are "foolish," but on Tuesday suggested on Twitter that vaccinated people shouldn't spend so much energy on anger against the folks who refuse to protect themselves.

"The logical solution here if you're vaccinated is not to be too concerned with what the other 30% are doing, because you are protected," he wrote. "It's the 30% who should be concerned, but if they aren't, that's not your problem."

That's not really true, though. (For one thing, only about half the country is fully vaccinated at this point.) The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the glut of hospitalizations is having a series of dangerous ripple effects — a shortage of nurses and longer emergency response times among them. The Florida Hospital Association expects that up to 70 percent of the state's hospitals will experience staffing shortages in the next week.

Obviously, it's not just the unvaxxed who suffer the effects of the systemic damage. A Louisiana official told AP that one heart attack victim had been bounced to six different hospitals before finding an emergency room available to help him. On CNN Tuesday, a cancer patient said his surgery had been delayed because his Las Vegas hospital needs the recovery beds to deal with the COVID surge. "I don't want to shame anybody and I don't want to express anger at anybody," Michael Kagan told the network. "I just want people to not get sick and not as sick."

It's difficult not to feel anger on his behalf, though. The vaccinated may be protected from COVID-19, but we can't protect ourselves from the consequences of our neighbors' bad choices.