Return to pre-pandemic normal will be quicker realized if more people get vaccinated

Bill Smith Contributing columnist

The Olympics in Japan are scheduled to begin in three months. So far it is estimated that the costs will be $15.4 billion, although some estimates are almost double that.

This once-cancelled event is in the midst of deciding whether or not to just drop it. The newest culprit? Vaccinations.

Parts of the country are in their third lockdown, only 25% of the population thinks the games should go on and qualifying has been a nightmare for teams. Add to that no one will be allowed to attend from another country (obviously this does not include participants) because of concerns about what those individuals will bring, and it is almost a tsunami of issues. Because of the slow distribution of vaccine, less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated. Those over 65 years old have just begun to get vaccinated and they make up almost 30% of the population. Despite the desire to get vaccinated, it is not going to happen in a timely fashion.

Compare that to the United States, which is flush with vaccine. There is more vaccine than people wanting it despite less than half of the people being vaccinated. While the people want to be relieved of masking, checking the surroundings for distancing and sanitizing, the majority are unwilling to do one simple act: vaccinate.

The governor has stated that if 2/3 of the population is vaccinated, some of the measures can be removed. Is this likely? Robeson County is at about 1/4 vaccinated, which is about 60,000 people short of 2/3. Can one expect fairs, festivals and the like to occur when those most likely to attend are either unvaccinated or at high risk?

So, if Japan is willing to write off billions as a bad investment, in what direction will the U.S. head? I used to think these were not good times to be a kid, but I have come to realize this is not a good time to be an adult either.

In the good news department, the World Health Organization has labeled 65-year-olds to still be young. I feel so much better now realizing that I am only at middle age.

Bill Smith is director of the Robeson County Health Department.