Dennis Lyons

Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on Meet the Press last Sunday.

He hadn’t been on the Sunday morning shows for a while, and I’d considered that a good thing.

I have nothing against him. As director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president, he was the voice of reason during the height of the pandemic. He wasn’t perfect, but he was and remains the go-to person for an intelligent, calm perspective on the COVID-19 virus.

But he’s seldom interviewed on national TV unless something bad is happening regarding our nation’s health.

So of course, it turned out, Fauci had some bad news — this time involving the inexplicably high number of people who have not yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

Fauci said that about 99.2% of recent COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have involved unvaccinated people. He correctly called that a “tragic” situation that could easily be mitigated.

A USA TODAY story I later read on that appearance quoted Dr. Fauci as calling the virus a still “formidable enemy.” He added his frustration that “we do have a countermeasure that’s highly, highly effective. And that’s the reason why it’s all the more sad and all the more tragic why it isn’t being completely implemented in this country.”

Correct as usual, Dr. Fauci.

There are, he said, multiple reasons why so many people have yet to get the readily available vaccine. Some people “are just fundamentally anti-vax or anti-science,” he said. Others, he said, have ideological reasons.

I’d add stubbornness and the embracing of misinformation.

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise again as the Delta variant has been spreading across the nation. And guess what? Areas with low vaccination rates are seeing disproportionately higher levels of infection.

While the vaccines aren’t foolproof, they do, at the least, make it much less likely a person who contracts the virus will get seriously ill or have to be hospitalized.

Yet still, we have this lag in vaccinations.

There’s actually pretty good news statewide here. According to the CDC, 60.8% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated while 76% have received their first dose. The commonwealth ranks fifth among all 50 states for total doses administered.

Locally, though, the news is less positive.

According to the numbers we’ve been tracking since the vaccine first became available, in Montour County, 60.7 percent of those adults (11,067 of 18,230) have been vaccinated as of Friday.

But in Northumberland County, that percentage is just about 43.6 percent — 39,606 of 90,843. In Union County, just 38.5 percent (17,314 of 44,923) have been vaccinated and in Snyder County, it’s an even lower 33.8 percent (13,626 of 40,372.)

Meanwhile, across the South, Southwest and parts of the Midwest, surges are appearing once again. Florida alone has about 17% of all the recent new cases reported nationwide, the CDC reported.

Also, according to the CDC, there are approximately 1,000 counties in the United States that have vaccination coverage of less than 30%.

This just does not make any sense.

Stubbornly refusing to get vaccinated puts our current gradual return to pre-pandemic life at great risk.

Plus, as someone with five grandchildren still too young to get vaccinated, that refusal is quite possibly putting their health at risk.

I have been in this business for more than 40 years. I have learned in that time to depend on authoritative, reliable sources for information.

Every single one of those trusted sources — including those from the private health sector, for those who believe they should refuse to do anything the government tells them to do — have strongly recommended getting the vaccine.

If you have not yet done so, it’s time.

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