The recent events in Afghanistan has us thinking: Is Idaho fighting its last war – on Covid?

The reason for this question is simple: Most policies, programs, and plans are reactive and not proactive. A 20-year expenditure of blood and treasure in Afghanistan unraveled in about 11 days. What was missing in the minds of so many highly educated people that they didn’t foresee this outcome?

Rather than answering that question, ask yourself the same question with respect to Idaho’s management of Covid-19. How do we as Americans, and Idahoans, avoid a similar policy debacle?

With groupthink governing the healthcare landscape, it is time to hit the pause button. We believe that just beating the vaccine drum does not make sense.

Here are the facts on the ground in Idaho:

• Roughly half of the adult population (18 or over) is fully vaccinated, roughly 76% of our seniors are fully vaccinated, and roughly 14% of the adult population has had confirmed or probable Covid-19.

• The latter number is just based on testing data and can’t capture the numbers of those who were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and were not tested.

• Since mid-July, virtually all the positive tests for Covid have revealed the Delta variant, according to the sampling on the state database.

• And while much has been said about the shortage of ICU beds, it is not clear whether this is a staffing issue or an overall resource issue. Beginning on September 3, the ICU bed capacity is based on staffed, adult ICU beds.

• And finally, daily deaths are down more than 50 percent from the disease peak. But daily case counts this September are actually higher than a year ago when there was no vaccine available.

Have we made real progress or are the cycles of the disease and the variants impervious to our latest war strategy? We ask this not to disparage the many professionals working to minimize the suffering of Idahoans but because the push for vaccines has hit a wall. Those who want it can get it, and those who don’t shouldn’t be forced to get it or face punishments like losing their livelihood.

Another open item for debate is the strength of natural immunity compared to the vaccine. But which vaccine and after how many doses? Suffice it to say that the debate is not closed and can’t be settled in this article. But it does call into question the relentless push to get everyone vaccinated.

For example, those under 30 years of age in Idaho make up 37 percent of the positive tested cases of Covid but only 0.3 of one percent of the deaths. That equates to eight deaths out of 83,856 tested cases for those under 30 – just over 10 percent of this age group’s population.

If you are under 30, your chances of dying from Covid-19 are simply too small to measure. And despite all the stories about risk to the general population, this disease impacts the elderly most; 77% of those that have died in Idaho are 70 and older. The mean age of all Covid deaths in Idaho is not far below the state’s average life expectancy.

We are addressing the predicate for the actions taken by the state of Idaho. When a public health model is the starting point for making recommendations regarding the way people should live, work, learn, and worship, then prudence demands an explanation of why data is presented in a homogenous fashion without delving deeper into the various subgroups of citizens and how mitigation should be directed toward individual at-risk patients instead of the total populace.

Those over 70, those with comorbid conditions, and the immunocompromised should seriously consider being vaccinated. Those who have antibodies from being naturally infected or vaccinated are theoretically at higher risk for hyperimmune reactions from subsequent vaccination. Young girls who may someday want to become pregnant may also want to consider the possible and yet unknown impact that some vaccines have on ovarian function.

If the goal of vaccination is mass compliance, then the public health model may be the predicate for action. If the goal of treatment is the wellbeing of the individual patient, then a more selective application of the science needs to be considered. And that must include therapeutics and the advice needed for otherwise healthy individuals to boost their immune systems – or history will just repeat itself when the next variant comes along.

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