Editorial: Progress against pandemic could evaporate if adoption of vaccines doesn’t increase

We’ve come a long way since the COVID-19 pandemic exploded onto the world stage in late 2019 and early 2020.

What at first seemed like a mild outbreak proved to be far, far worse, causing an estimated five million deaths worldwide and devastating the global economy. More than 730,000 people have died of COVID in the U.S. alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with more than 45 million cases reported domestically.

Although progress has been made — including record-fast development of safe, effective vaccines — much more remains to be done before we can truly put the pandemic behind us.

In Colorado, hospitalizations due to COVID have been increasing. The state already has experienced 733,000 cases and more than 8,400 deaths, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

The state’s positivity rate climbed to 9.44% as of Oct. 28, with 180 new hospital admissions. That positivity rate is far above the desired 5% or below.

About 72% of eligible people are fully immunized in the state, with 78% immunized with one dose.

But we must do more.

New, deadlier variants of the COVID-19 virus are emerging, making the race to get the population vaccinated even more urgent. Additionally, approval for various booster shots should provide added protection for those already vaccinated.

But it’s critical that the percentage of the population that’s fully vaccinated increases, up to and beyond the 80% that some scientists believe is necessary for the coveted “herd immunity.” (Some scientists place the number as high as 90%.)

A few months back, when the vaccines had only emergency-use authorization, vaccine opponents argued that distribution should wait for full approval. Well, the vaccines have been fully approved, but many still question their efficacy and safety, and vaccination rates have stalled.

President Joe Biden has mandated that federal contractors, as well as employers with 100 or more employees, be fully vaccinated. While the legality of those mandates remains to be debated, it’s clear that more and more private-sector employers are implementing such mandates.

But despite what might happen with those mandates, we encourage every individual to do their part to bring this pandemic to a close. That means wearing masks as required and, yes, getting vaccinated.

We’ve lost too many friends and neighbors. Our economy has suffered. The COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines have inexplicably become politicized. Enough is enough.

Let’s do this.