This is written in response to the letter published on December 30th promoting a “Different Approach to Covid” which concluded “It’s time for us to be more open to alternatives other than just the jab and to move away from these useless, freedom robbing mandates.”

The definition of “pandemic disease” is one that is prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world. COVID-19 certainly qualifies. As of December 31, approximately 847,000 U.S. citizens and 4.6 million other individuals worldwide have died as a direct result of infection by this virus. A front page headline of the same edition of the US&J in which the letter was published stated “Niagara reports 13 more deaths” related to COVID-19. Beyond these terrible figures are significant numbers of individuals who do not die from COVID-19 but continue to suffer from debilitating long-term (“long-haul”) residual effects of COVID-19 infection.

As proven repeatedly in the past, the only way to effectively combat a pandemic disease is by a unified, community-wide effort. Public health officials at the national, state and local levels have provided guidance for that effort based upon the best available scientific knowledge. That knowledge changes over time as better understanding of the disease is acquired, new weapons to combat the disease are developed, and unfortunately, as the virus mutates. Two years ago, the weapons available to contain the spread of the virus were social distancing (including lockdowns), frequent surface and hand sanitation, and facial masks. Less than a year ago, vaccines based upon more than a decade of prior research were approved for widespread use only after rigorous evaluation. By last summer, application of all available weapons, along with increased levels of outdoor activity, proved to be effective in suppressing domestic COVID-19 to levels easily addressed by our health care delivery systems. However, the arrival of the delta and omicron variants, the onset of colder weather, widespread end-of-year holiday travel, diminished natural and vaccine immunity over time, and complacency stemming from “Covid fatigue” have resulted in a resurgence of COVID-19 related illness which again taxes the capacity of our health care systems.

Note that, contrary to the letter writer’s contention, all responsible community leaders have clearly and repeatedly stated that the available vaccines do not prohibit those vaccinated from becoming infected or transmitting the virus: the vaccines only enhance an individual’s own immune system to better fight the virus with the objective of minimizing the effect of any infection while reducing virus transmission. For more than a year, infusion of monoclonal antibodies has been employed as an effective therapeutic for those in the early stages of infection. Neither Ivermectin nor hydroxychloroquine have been scientifically proven or approved as either prophylactics or therapeutics for COVID-19. New oral antiviral drugs developed by Pfizer and Merck have been tested and may soon be approved as therapeutics for the infected, adding another weapon to minimize infection symptoms, but not suppress the spread, of COVID-19.

The letter writer poses the question “Why is there such an effort to get 'everyone' vaccinated when we know that children and healthy men and women who get Covid recover from it and thereby have a stronger immunity against it?” Answers include the fact that some unvaccinated children and healthy adults do not recover fully (the “long haulers”) and many do die. Also, those not fully vaccinated more easily transmit the virus to others who may be more vulnerable often resulting in their hospitalization and potential death. Furthermore, unvaccinated individuals who do require hospitalization to recover deny hospital services to others who desperately need those services for medical conditions not related to COVID-19.

Therefore, I’m taking a stand and speaking out in support of the demonstrated, and as necessary mandated, methods to suppress virus transmission as the most effective and responsible actions to take during the time necessary to convert COVID-19 from a “pandemic” disease to an “endemic” disease (like the seasonal flu). Taking simple precautions to curtail the spread of COVID-19 should be considered a civic duty performed for the protection and betterment of the entire community. The temporary discomfort associated with a vaccination series or the inconvenience of wearing a mask in indoor public settings enables me to continue to exercise my constitutional rights and enjoy my personal freedom. Unfortunately, those opportunities are lost for the roughly 600 Americans currently dying each day from COVID-19 and jeopardized for others who suffer needlessly because appropriate medical care is delayed or unavailable.

STEVEN COTTEN, Lockport

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