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Monday, July 26, 2021

A Personal Message to University Students Regarding the Delta Variant of COVID-19 and the Decision to Get Vaccinated

 An Open Letter to University Students Regarding Your Choice to Become Vaccinated (and Your Personal Responsibility to Become Well-Informed)

By Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP®[i]

July 25, 2021

This communication represents the author’s own views, and are not necessarily the views of any institution, organization, firm, clan, tribe, gang, cult, nor motley group of characters to which the author currently belongs or has ever been kicked out from.

I urge all readers of this article, who remain unvaccinated, to fully explore the evidence (from multiple sources), and to discuss the issue with their family physician.



An Alabama physician glumly says she is making "a lot of progress" in encouraging people to vaccinate – as she struggles to keep them alive.


Dr. Brytney Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, wrote in a recent Facebook post she is treating a lot of young, otherwise healthy people for serious coronavirus infections.


“One of the last things they do before they're intubated is beg me for the vaccine," she wrote. "I hold their hand and tell them that I'm sorry, but it's too late."


In her post, Cobia wrote that when a patient dies, she hugs their family members and urges them to get vaccinated. She said they cry and tell her they thought the pandemic was a "hoax," or "political," or targeting some other age group or skin color.


"They wish they could go back. But they can't," Cobia wrote. "So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives."[ii]



·       Fox News launched a public service announcement urging people to get the Covid-19 vaccine this past week.[iii]

·       Sean Hannity, on Monday, told his viewers to “please take Covid seriously – I can’t say it enough.”[iv]

·       “U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for more Americans to get vaccinated, [stating:]  ‘These shots need to get in everybody’s arms as rapidly as possible or we´re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for — that we went through last year … This is not complicated.”

·       “Utah’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, encouraged people in the state to get vaccinated and blamed conservative media for stoking vaccine hesitancy. ‘We have these talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get the vaccine,’ Cox said, according to The Hill. ‘It’s dangerous. It’s damaging. And it’s killing people. It’s literally killing their supporters and that makes no sense to me.’  When asked about Cox’s comment, [Senator Mitch] McConnell urged Americans to ‘ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.’”[v]

·       Several “Republican governors also redoubled their efforts to get their constituents vaccinated, including Missouri's Mike Parson, West Virginia's Jim Justice and Florida's Ron DeSantis.”[vi]



“’This is a different disease. This is much worse,’ Dr. Clay Marsh said during the state [of West Virginia] COVID-19 briefing. “The more I learn about this, the more I’m worried … Marsh said people infected with the delta variant have 1,000-times more virus in their airways, compared to the original COVID-19 virus. That high concentration, he said, allows the variant to easily spread from person to person …..”[vii]




“Mississippi's “recent sequencing data of 231 Delta variant cases show the variant spreading among young Mississippians:

  • Those ages 39 and under make up 65% of Delta variant cases
  • Of that group, those ages 1-17 account for almost 34% of Delta variant cases””[viii]




“Just how many deaths will occur as a result of the recent uptick in transmission is still unclear. Even if they die at lower rates than older adults, some of the younger adults hospitalized in recent weeks will still die. But cases only started rising in the past few weeks, and it can take people with Covid-19 that long to die, and another few weeks for their deaths to be recorded.”[ix]


“Even though treatments are better than they were originally, a larger share of patients are ending up in intensive care, and the fatality rate for those patients remains high, experts said. ‘That’s just indicative of the more virulent quality of the delta variant … It will make people sick, even people that are young and would not have felt any consequence from the original wild variant.’ Frighteningly, he said, far more children are being hospitalized, which was very rare until recently.”[x]


“The UK's top doctor has warned that more young people will get 'long COVID' as the Delta variant, which is now responsible for most of cases in the US, pushes up infection rates … One in three people who get symptomatic COVID-19 develop long COVID, defined as at least one self-reported symptom lasting for more than 12 weeks …”.[xi]




As of July 21, 2021, new infections of COVID-19 nearly tripled over the past two weeks,[xii] and even higher rates of infection will occur soon. A “fourth wave” of COVID-19 has started. Unlike previous waves, more and more younger people are becoming infected.


Unlike the COVID-19 pandemic situation throughout 2020 and early into 2021, each of us individually possesses the freedom to make a choice – whether to get vaccinated or not. Individual decisions should be made using a cost-benefit analysis.


With the freedom to make choices also comes responsibility – to make decisions that optimize our own health outcomes. And that personal responsibility also includes to consider the well-being of others around us. A society benefits from prudent decision-making, by individuals, who carefully consider the choices they face to optimize their own outcomes, but also considering the impact of their decisions upon their family members, friends, and the greater community.


In this communication, I seek to gather the insights from many different sources, so that you – university students around the United States - may better make an informed decision. I caution that I am not a physician, nor am I trained in public health. Yet, I seek to relay facts and figures gleaned from those who are researching and communicating about COVID-19.


It is my sincere hope that you, the reader, will carefully consider these facts, and undertake your own additional investigations in order to make an informed personal decision.


Furthermore, I urge you to discuss your investigation, and any tentative conclusions you may reach with your personal physician.


EXPLORING VACCINE HESITANCY. We should not dismiss, outright, the hesitancy of those to becoming vaccinated. But those who are hesitant to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 should, in turn, carefully research and explore the facts, and undertake a cost-benefit analysis (which is set forth below).


There exists a lot of erroneous facts and opinions about vaccinations for COVID-19. In May 2021, Kaiser-Permanente Health Monitor Survey reported that approximately two-thirds of the unvaccinated believed at least one erroneous fact about the vaccines; many respondents held multiple inaccurate conclusions.[xiii]


Please permit me to briefly explore some of the major reasons for vaccine hesitancy:

 ·       A large reason for vaccine hesitancy appears to be distrust of the government, which has increased substantially over the past five decades since Watergate.[xiv] And, for some, a distrust of “science” also exists.

o   Yet, the reality is that “very few Americans actually oppose vaccines. For instance, only a tiny proportion of parents forgo vaccination for their children. Prior to the pandemic, vaccination rates were generally high and stable for very young children and those of school-entry age. For example, 95 percent of children were vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella with the MMR vaccine in the 2018–19 school year. Pockets of hesitancy remain and improvement is needed on some vaccines, but we should not confuse the visibility of a small number of anti-vaccine activists with sentiment toward vaccines in the broader population.”[xv]

o   Politico reports: “Many people are turning down Covid vaccines because they are angry that President Donald Trump lost the election and sick of Democrats thinking they know what’s best.”[xvi] Yet, Trump rightfully launched the programs that led to rapid development of the vaccines, and Trump has been vaccinated. Trump has also urged others to become vaccinated. “Sean Hannity and other Fox News reporters earlier this week suddenly changed their tune, as did many Republicans on Capitol Hill, calling on their viewers and constituents to sign up for the vaccine.”[xvii] Emotions in politics run high, but might I suggest – whether you are Republican, Democrat, Green Party, other political party, or independent – that you focus on the cost-benefit analysis for your health and life, personally, as well as upon the effect of COVID-19 upon your community. Are there better ways to make a political statement, that don't endanger yourself or others?

·       There is a belief, especially among those who are ages 18-24, that they are invincible.

o   This belief was similar to that seen in the late 1950’s. “When the Salk vaccine came out, parents were very keen to have their children vaccinated, but young adults were not convinced that they were at risk and did not get vaccinated. Only after additional epidemics showed that that they too could die or be paralyzed by polio did adults turn up to get vaccinated.”[xviii]

o   As discussed below, young people – even very healthy adults – are at some risk of death, and at a great risk of long-term symptoms, from catching the Delta variant of COVID-19.

o   For those attending colleges and universities, if you are not vaccinated and are exposed to a person with COVID-19, you may be forced to quarantine (and miss classes) for ten days, or longer. And if you catch COVID-19, a similar period of quarantine will occur – and you will likely have days (or even weeks) where you are unable to effectively keep up with your course work (due to symptoms from which you are likely to suffer). Of course, there is even the possibility of severe illness, hospitalization, and even death, as explained below.

·       Some members of minority groups have particular aversion to medical treatments.

o   “Dark and tragic episodes from the past, such as the Tuskegee syphilis study, remain deeply rooted in the consciousness of minority communities. In the 40-year experiment, Black men were misled about the research and forced to suffer from untreated syphilis, despite the availability of penicillin. Present-day problems, such as the lack of access to adequate health care and insurance, persist in minority communities.”[xix]

o   Lacking a personal perspective on these issues, I can only urge members of minority groups to discuss the issue of reluctance to take a COVID-19 vaccination with their family physician, members of the clergy, or others that they may trust for guidance.

·       There exist concerns among some that the vaccines may have long-term adverse effects.

o   Having seen advertisements from personal injury attorneys pursuing cases against pharmaceutical companies for medications that turned out to have greater adverse effects than advertised, the concern about long-term effects from any medication should not be surprising.

o   Yet, vaccines are highly, highly unlikely to possess long-term adverse effects.

§  “It’s true that reports of new side effects can sometimes take months to emerge as a vaccine goes from populations of thousands in clinical trials to millions in the real world, encountering natural variations in human responses along the way. But more than a hundred million Americans have already passed that point in their vaccinations and the first participants in the clinical trials are now beyond a year.”[xx]

§  “Side-effects nearly always occur within a couple of weeks of a person being vaccinated,” says John Grabenstein, director of scientific communication for the Immunization Action Coalition. He adds that the longest time before a side effect appeared for any type of shot has been six weeks. “The concerns that something will spring up later with the COVID-19 vaccines are not impossible, but based on what we know, they aren’t likely,” adds Miles Braun, adjunct professor of medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and the former director of the division of epidemiology at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[xxi] 

§  “A key reason for this limited window of side effects is the short time all vaccines stay in the body, says Onyema Ogbuagu, an infectious diseases specialist at Yale Medicine … Unlike medicines that people take every day or week, vaccines are generally administered once or a handful of times over a lifetime.”[xxii]

§  “The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where DNA lives, so it does not affect a person’s DNA.”[xxiii]

·       The fact that the vaccines are “provisionally approved” has increased hesitancy among a small percentage of adults.

o   However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is widely expected to grant full approval this fall, faster than the time line for full approval for other medications.

·       It is about personal choice and freedom.

o   Yes, it is, in most instances.

  •       Our society must, necessarily, balance personal freedom with protection; we elect representatives to legislate the rules by which personal choice and freedoms might be curtailed, subject to Constitutional protections. For example, the right to drive a car is not absolute - there are many regulations that require we drive in a manner that makes it safer for ourselves and for others.

  •       It is also about a responsibility to take charge of one’s own health future, as well as a responsibility to the communities in which we work and live.

o   There is no federal law that mandates vaccines for all citizens. However, states and employers[xxiv] generally have the right to require vaccination.

§  The courts have upheld vaccination requirements in the past (such as the many K-12 school districts that require vaccinations, or even vaccinations required of all citizens in a municipality[xxv]), and most recently have also upheld Indiana University’s requirement for its students to be vaccinated.

o   Hopefully we will not see massive shutdowns of businesses. Yet, some businesses will suffer, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates (where the Delta variant is likely to cause higher rates of transmission). While not as severe as 2020, we will likely see reduced economic activity, and the loss of some jobs, due to the Delta variant’s impact. We can lessen this impact by each of us carefully considering the issue of vaccination.

o   Any society, to thrive, also requires individuals to think about people other than themselves. The problem with the “personal choice” argument – taken to an extreme – is that “this is an infection where it’s not only about you. If you don’t get vaccinated, it’s not only you who takes the risk. You risk a lot of people around you, including people you like and love.


THE DELTA VARIANT IS CAUSING A FOURTH WAVE OF INFECTIONS. We are all more than tired of COVID-19 and the restrictions our society has endured over the past year-and-a-half. Yet, the troubling “fourth wave” has arrived in the form of the Delta variant. The daily count of new cases of infection, here in the United States, has risen from an estimated 80,000 cases per day (the “confirmed number” was only 11,000 or so) in mid-June, to about 235,000 (reported number is, again, lower) on June 23, 2021.[xxvi] Projections from the IMHE indicate that the number of daily new infections will likely rise to 300,000 by mid-August, and that such number will likely continue through the fall of 2021.[xxvii]


DAILY DEATH TOLLS ARE INCREASING. The IMHE estimates that the daily death toll in the United States will return to over 700 a day by the beginning of September.[xxviii]


STRATEGIES TO MITIGATE THIS FOURTH WAVE. The IMHE states: “We believe there are two main strategies to respondto the Delta surge that each state should consider.


[REDUCE VACCINE HESITANCY.] First, every effort should be taken toM reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase the coverage of mRNA vaccination. This likely should include targeting communities where vaccine hesitancy is high for messaging, outreach, and enhanced access.


[WEAR MASKS – EVEN IF VACCINATED.] Second, based on the evidence from around the world, we estimate that mRNA vaccines are 81%–83% effective in preventing Delta variant infection. Johnson & Johnson may prevent only 64% of Delta variant infections. Vaccinated individuals may be playing an important role in transmission. Mask mandates for the unvaccinated and vaccinated should be considered in communities with rapid increases in transmission.”[xxix]


THE COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS. In this chart I present a discussion of the issues – with answers discerned from sources judged to be reliable – that I hope will inform your decision.





The likelihood of catching COVID-19

Says Carlos del Rio, an infectious-diseases doctor and executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta: “If you’re not vaccinated, you are really in trouble because it’s likely you will get infected.”[xxx]


Some unvaccinated people have caught COVID-19 for a second and third time. “[P]eople who go unvaccinated after catching COVID-19 are more at risk of catching it again. The reasons are the length of natural immunity from the infection is believed to only last a short time, and different variants circulating increase the risk.”[xxxi]


Some media have reported statements by political leaders and even physicians that everyone who is not vaccinated will eventually catch COVID-19, at least once. While the risk of catching COVID-19 for the unvaccinated is always extremely high (and ongoing), I could not find any medical evidence that suggests that catching COVID-19 is an absolute certainty for the unvaccinated.

As “of July 12, out of 159 million fully vaccinated people, the CDC documented 5,492 cases of fully vaccinated people who were hospitalized or died from COVID-19, and 75% of them were over age 65.”[xxxii]


For the Delta variant, the “[d]ata so far suggests efficacy rates of more than 67 percent for the J&J vaccine, 72 to 95 percent for the Moderna vaccine, and 64 to 96 percent for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.”[xxxiii]


“Even in those with good immunity, vaccine protection is likely to wane over time, though researchers aren’t sure yet of the speed at which that occurs.”[xxxiv]


“On Thursday, the CDC presented data to its panel of vaccine advisers indicating that immunocompromised people comprise about 2.7% of adults in the US.

When immunocompromised people are infected with coronavirus, the data showed they are more likely to get severely ill. If they are vaccinated, the data showed they are more likely to have breakthrough infections. A study in the US found 44% of hospitalized breakthrough cases were immunocompromised people, while a study in Israel found a rate of 40%.

’Emerging data show there is an enhanced antibody response after an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in some immunocompromised people … While early data show some potential benefit to administering an additional dose, more evidence is needed to determine safety and effectiveness in immunocompromised people.’ ‘[xxxv]

The likelihood of death from COVID-19, in the United States

While the official number of confirmed deaths in the United States due to COVID-19 has risen to 610,000, evidence exists that the actual number could be 1,000,000 or more. Out of an estimated 330,000,000 Americans, that means that the risk of death, overall, is likely at least 1 in 300.


However, as noted below, the risk of death from COVID-19 does vary by age and underlying medical conditions.


After the receipt of a vaccination against COVID-19, the risk of death among those vaccinated is extremely low.


While vaccinations are highly effective at preventing death and serious illness, even for the Delta variant, the protection is not 100% absolute.


Moreover, the effectiveness of a vaccination may wane over time. By Fall 2021 it is expected that those at greater risk (over age 65, or with underlying health conditions) may be recommended to receive booster shots.

The likelihood of “severe illness” from the Delta variant of COVID-19, generally

“[U]nvaccinated people account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S.”[xxxvi]


“Unvaccinated individuals account for virtually all — 97 percent — of the COVID hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S., health officials said in a July 22 news briefing.”[xxxvii]


Other variants have triggered more traditional COVID-19 symptoms that resemble the flu, such as the loss of smell, fever, shortness of breath, or persistent cough. However, the Delta variant appears to present more like the common cold, causing upper respiratory symptoms such as a sore throat or runny nose.[xxxviii]


“Serious illness” is typically defined to be when hospitalization occurs. And for many this means confinement to the Intensive Care Units, a horrible array of symptoms, and at times intubation (which is very, very uncomfortable, and not something you ever want to endure).

“Real-world studies in Israel, the U.K., and the U.S. showed that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are over 96% effective in preventing hospitalization and death, and about 90% effective against infection in real-life conditions.”[xxxix]


“Current data indicate most COVID vaccines authorized for use offer protection against severe illness caused by the most common variants, with some inoculations—in particular the so-called mRNA vaccines made by Moderna Inc., and Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE—providing a stronger defense than others. Research suggests that achieving maximum immune protection requires receiving a full course of vaccine—usually two shots spread across intervals that vary from 2 to 12 weeks apart, depending on the product. And it takes time for the vaccine to take its full intended effect—about two weeks from the last dose, though the protection from some vaccines may build steadily over some months.”[xl]

The greater risks posed to those who are older or possess health conditions

“[T]he likelihood of dying of COVID-19 varies greatly between individuals, depending on factors such as age or underlying health conditions … death increases with age. Adults aged between 30 and 39 years old are already four times more likely to die than people aged 18 to 29 years old. The likelihood of dying increases up to 600 times for those aged 85 and older.”[xli]


“Certain medical conditions, such as heart and respiratory conditions, weakened immune system, cancer, diabetes, or obesity can increase a person’s likelihood of dying from COVID-19, regardless of their age. Pregnant people are also more likely to get severely ill ….”[xlii]

“Some individuals may not mount a robust response to the vaccine, meaning they fail to generate sufficient levels of virus-blocking antibodies and the T cells that hunt down and kill virus-infected cells. Of special concern are older people and those who are immunocompromised, meaning they have a weakened immune system because, for example, they have a disease that affects it such as AIDS or are taking immunosuppressive drugs after a transplant or to treat cancer.”[xliii]


NOTE: Booster shots may become available in the fall of 2021.

The likelihood of death from COVID-19, in the United States, for younger persons

“ ’We do know that in our ICUs, we are seeing younger people intubated who are very sick or who are on the floors and are very sick,’ said Jeanne Marrazzo, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. ‘That should be a gigantic wake-up call.’ ”[xliv]


“Although children and young adults are less likely to die of COVID-19 compared to older age groups, there is no group that experiences the absence of risk.”[xlv]


“Children with COVID-19 can develop a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). In MIS-C, inflammation can develop in any of several body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.”[xlvi]

It is extremely rare for younger persons (absent significant preexisting health conditions) to have received the vaccine and then catch COVID-19 and become so severely ill that they die.


“Israel, which by early 2021 had given more COVID vaccines per capita than anywhere else in the world, recorded almost 400 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated patients by late April. Of those, 234 suffered severe COVID and 90 cases were fatal. A careful review of almost half the hospitalized vaccinated people found their risk of developing a severe illness was magnified by pre-existing ailments, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart failure, as well as medical conditions that weakened their immune systems.”[xlvii]

Risks of side effects from vaccination versus the risks of “long-term COVID”

While death and serious illness (including hospitalization) are risks of COVID-19, another risk is long-term adverse health consequences from those who catch COVID-19.


“It’s young adults who are seeing a little more of the long-haul COVID, which can interfere with your quality of life massively.”[xlviii]


“Growing evidence indicates that long COVID causes considerable loss in quality of life and is a serious health concern. An international survey published in July 2021 in the scientific journal The Lancet found that 22% of the 3,762 recovered COVID-19 patients involved in the study reported to be unable to work seven months later, and 45% of them required a reduced work schedule.”[xlix]


“Among the most common were complications affecting the kidneys and respiratory system; neurological and cardiovascular problems were also reported.  These complications occurred across age groups, including in young and previously healthy individuals.”[l]


A recent analysis published in JAMA Network Open highlights just how common new or persisting symptoms are in people recovering from COVID-19.  Across 45 studies, more than 70 percent of COVID-19 patients, most of whom were hospitalized for the illness, reported a range of symptoms — 84 in total — months after their initial diagnosis. Shortness of breath, fatigue and sleep disorders were among the most commonly reported symptoms. Anxiety and depression were also up there. What’s more, previous research has found that long-haul symptom are common in people who had mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

A recent analysis published in JAMA Network Open highlights just how common new or persisting symptoms are in people recovering from COVID-19.  Across 45 studies, more than 70 percent of COVID-19 patients, most of whom were hospitalized for the illness, reported a range of symptoms — 84 in total — months after their initial diagnosis. Shortness of breath, fatigue and sleep disorders were among the most commonly reported symptoms. Anxiety and depression were also up there. What’s more, previous research has found that long-haul symptoms are common in people who had mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.”

As noted previously, vaccinations are not 100% effective against catching COVID-19, but they remain highly effective, even against the Delta variant.


While vaccinations are highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, there are side effects. Younger persons, in particular, can suffer from flu-like symptoms for a day or two, especially after receiving the second dose. However, the risks of long-term COVID (discussed at left) far outweigh the risks of temporary symptoms from the vaccine.


“Over 339 million vaccine doses were given to 187 million people in the US as of July 19, 2021 … There are three deaths that appear to be linked to blood clots that occurred after people got the J&J vaccine. Since we now know how to correctly treat people who develop these blood clots, future deaths related to this very rare side effect can be prevented.”[li]


“Since April 2021, there have been more than a thousand reports of cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) happening after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Considering the hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been administered, these reports are very rare. The problem occurs more often in adolescents (teens) and young adults, and in males. The myocarditis or pericarditis in most cases is mild and resolves quickly.”[lii]


“There have been 100 reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome out of the 12.8 million people who have been vaccinated with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Most of the cases occurred in men over the age of 50 around 2 weeks after being vaccinated. Most people who develop Guillain-Barré syndrome recover successfully after being treated in the hospital … People who have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome and want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine should talk with their doctor, as there are two other vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — to choose from.”[liii]


 (Risk of catching COVID-19 a second time

“’We know that the level of antibodies one gets from natural infection varies depending on the severity of their infection,’ said Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. On the other hand, ‘we get a more robust and consistent response from the vaccine.” That makes it a better bet “for immunity over a long period of time,’ she said.”[liv]


“It’s also unclear whether the antibodies you developed in response to a coronavirus infection will be able to recognize other variants of the virus.”[lv]


“Even if you’ve had COVID-19, getting those shots is well worth it. Scientists have found that even a single dose of vaccine gives the immune system of a COVID-19 survivor a big boost.”[lvi]


If you are immunocompromised, see discussion above.

Should the lack of 100% effectiveness of the vaccine deter you from becoming  vaccinated?



“No vaccine is 100% effective, and COVID-19 vaccines aren’t an exception. However, this doesn’t mean we should reject them, just as we wouldn’t reject a parachute before jumping from an airplane just because they don’t open in 100% of the cases.”[lvii]

On the necessity to wear masks

While vaccination is the best and far most effective way to guard against COVID-19, masks (especially N-95 masks, properly worn) are the next best means to reduce the risk of transmission.


In recent days, the advice to wear masks has returned. From an article from UC Davis Health: “My advice is to continue masking. Even if you’re vaccinated, definitely avoid large indoor gatherings – begrudgingly, again – and mask in grocery stores, drug stores and other locations that don’t verify vaccination status,” said Tuznik. “Socially distanced outdoor activities should be fine, but if you might come into close contact, even briefly, with a stranger, then mask up just in case.”[lviii]


From the same article: “I’m fully vaccinated and I still wear a mask at the grocery store or even outdoors in a crowded situation like at the farmer’s market, because many unvaccinated people are choosing to go unmasked and I’m not comfortable with that,” Blumberg explained.[lix]




The 2020-21 academic year was tough. Being older and at more risk of serious illness from COVID-19, I chose to teach exclusively online. While I undertook a great deal of preparation to better prepare my instructional techniques (having never taught online before), I was not entirely pleased with the results. Many students, especially freshmen, benefit greatly from the exchanges with professors and their peers that occur in the classroom.


Being fully vaccinated, myself, I look forward to returning to the classroom in August 2021. Yet, as the Delta variant continues to surge cases, I will take precautions. Wearing a mask. Washing my hands frequently. Trying to engage in social distancing (although such will be difficult in a classroom with 30-40 students).


It is my hope that, after viewing this article, any students who have not yet received vaccination will consult with their family physician, stop by a vaccination site and confer with a health care provider, or just go ahead and get either the Moderna or the Pfizer 2-dose vaccination shots.


It is further my hope that very, very few college students will have their studies interrupted from COVID-19, or even worse suffer from severe and/or long-term health effects from COVID-19 (or even die from same).


The college experience can be wonderful. It is a time of increased personal freedom. But with that freedom also comes many responsibilities – to one’s self, and to others.


The response to the pandemic requires each and every one of us to think critically, to examine all of the credible evidence, then make an informed and rational decision, and then act on that decision.


[i] Associate Professor of Finance, Western Kentucky University. Again, this article represents the personal views of the author, and are not necessarily those of WKU nor any other organization or firm with whom the author is associated.

[iv] Id.

[xi] Business Insider,

[xiv] David Brooks, appearing on PBS Newshour, July 23, 2021.

[xx] Meryl Davids Landau, “Vaccines are highly unlikely to cause side effects long after getting the shot,” National Geographic (July 22, 2021).

[xxi] Id.

[xxii] Id.

[xxiv] “On June 12, 2021, a federal District Court in Texas in Bridges, et al v. Houston Methodist Hospital et al, Docket No. 4:21-cv-01774 (S.D. Tex. Jun 01, 2021) dismissed a case challenging a hospital’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees. This is the first court opinion addressing the ability of employers to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 … The Order concludes with a strong endorsement of mandatory vaccine policies in employment, stating that Plaintiffs “can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if [they] refuse, [they] will simply need to work somewhere else…Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for his remuneration. This is all part of the bargain.”

[xxv] On February 20, 1905, the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 majority, said in Jacobson v. Massachusetts that the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts could fine residents who refused to receive smallpox injections. In 1901, a smallpox epidemic swept through the Northeast and Cambridge, and Massachusetts reacted by requiring all adults receive smallpox inoculations subject to a $5 fine. In 1902, Pastor Henning Jacobson, suggesting that he and his son both were injured by previous vaccines, refused to be vaccinated and to pay the fine. In state court, Jacobson argued the vaccine law violated the Massachusetts and federal constitutions. The state courts, including the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, rejected his claims. Before the Supreme Court, Jacobson argued that, “compulsion to introduce disease into a healthy system is a violation of liberty.” On February 20, 1905, the Supreme Court rejected Jacobson’s arguments. Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote about the police power of states to regulate for the protection of public health: “The good and welfare of the Commonwealth, of which the legislature is primarily the judge, is the basis on which the police power rests in Massachusetts,” Harlan said  “upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”

[xxvi] The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, estimates as of July 22, 2021. For updated projections, please visit

[xxvii] Id.

[xxviii] Id.

[xxxiv] Jason Gale and Bloomberg, “This is why vaccinated people are still testing positive for COVID-19,” Fortune (July 22, 2021).

[xl] Jason Gale and Bloomberg, “This is why vaccinated people are still testing positive for COVID-19,” Fortune (July 22, 2021).

[xliii] Jason Gale and Bloomberg, “This is why vaccinated people are still testing positive for COVID-19,” Fortune (July 22, 2021).

[lix] Id.