The news this week that the delta variant of COVID-19 has been identified in Effingham County is disturbing. But it doesn’t have to be frightening – if we all step up our game in combating the pandemic that has gripped this nation for a year and a half.

What’s more disturbing than the appearance of delta here is the low vaccination rate in Effingham County compared to the rest of the state and the nation.

Among Illinois residents 12 and over, 55% have been fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Nationwide, 56.2% of that population has been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But in Effingham County, just 34% have been fully vaccinated, according to IDPH. Surrounding counties have a more dismal rate: Fayette County, 23.9%; Shelby County, 28.8%; Cumberland County, 28.6%; Jasper County, 31.4%; Clay County, 27.8%.

That’s frustrating.

We’re unsure why so many here hesitate to get vaccinated. We’re glad previous generations didn’t shun the vaccines for smallpox, polio, mumps and all the other threats – many of which have been eradicated because of vaccines.

The Washington Post reports:

“Modeling shows the delta variant now accounts for 51.7 percent of all new infections in this country, five times the prevalence four weeks earlier, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the week ending July 3.

“’Although we expected the delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling,’” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House news briefing.

“In some parts of the country, she said, delta is even more widespread. For example, in parts of the Midwest and upper mountain states, including in Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa, the CDC’s sequencing of infections suggests the new variant may account for about 80 percent of cases.

“The good news, Walensky said, is all three coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States offer strong protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19. Preliminary data from several states over the past several months suggests that 99.5 percent of COVID-19-related deaths occurred among unvaccinated people, she said.”

That number is so stunning, we’ll repeat it: Over the past several months, 99.5 percent of COVID-19-related deaths occurred among unvaccinated people.

The CDC spells out what everyone should understand:

COVID-19 vaccines are safe

• COVID-19 vaccines were developed using science that has been around for decades.

• COVID-19 vaccines are not experimental. They went through all the required stages of clinical trials. Extensive testing and monitoring have shown that these vaccines are safe and effective.

• COVID-19 vaccines have received and continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

COVID-19 vaccines are effective

• COVID 19-vaccines are effective. They can keep you from getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

• COVID-19 vaccines also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get COVID-19.

• Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

We’ll also repeat what Effingham County Health Department Administrator Jeff Workman said this week, because we agree with it:

“The detection of the delta variant in Effingham County, combined with our low vaccination rate, makes me very concerned that we will see another COVID-19 surge. I urge anyone who has any of the COVID-19 symptoms to get tested, even if they feel like it’s the common cold. I’d also like to encourage the unvaccinated who are eligible to get vaccinated and those who are overdue on their second dose of vaccine to get it sooner rather than later.”

Visit effcohealth.org for information on upcoming vaccination clinics.

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"Our View" on the Opinion Page represents "the voice of the Effingham Daily News." It results from discussion by the editorial board: Publisher Amy Winter and Editor Jeff Long.