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SPIGOLON: New COVID-19 variant makes it even more important to get jabbed
COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer are currently being rolled out across Georgia and the entire U.S., though limited in supply. (Metro Creative Services)

This is an opinion.

If Newton County was a state, the latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccination rates show that we’d be the least-vaccinated state in the U.S.

Newton, of course, is only one of 159 counties in Georgia. But it is still well below the state average for being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Almost all of the new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. — 99.7% — are among people who have not been vaccinated, according to a variety of health agencies.

But only about 31% of Newton County residents eligible for the vaccine, ages 12 and up, were fully vaccinated by Monday, July 12, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

We’re well below high-income counties like Fayette at 51%, or Oconee at 50%. Newton is even below DeKalb at 43%, the department reported.

Aversion to the vaccine apparently is not confined to either race, as only 33% of Black residents and 31% of white Newton County residents eligible for the vaccine have received it. 

Female county residents, however, have been more willing than men in getting vaccinated as 39% of eligible women and 31% of eligible men have been jabbed.

By comparison, the statewide average in Georgia is 39% — and at that rate it is 45th out of 50 states for vaccination rates in the nation. 

Our state is lagging well behind states like Vermont and Massachusetts that are around 75% each.

Now comes the news about the highly contagious Delta variant of the disease. And it should make people stand up and realize the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us and still as dangerous as it ever was.

In the words of, likely, the most highly regarded and, at the same time, most reviled public health expert in our nation’s history, Dr. Anthony Fauci, COVID-19 doesn’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat.

Delta is a highly contagious variant of the novel coronavirus initially identified in India. It is now the dominant strain in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data from the CDC showed the variant was estimated to account for 51.7% of all new cases of COVID-19 nationwide as of July 3.

Many states seeing the largest two-week increases in cases — including Nevada, Arizona, Missouri, Arkansas, Utah and Oklahoma — all have vaccination rates well below the national rate, according to such sources as Forbes magazine. And those rates do not include the approximately 15% of the U.S. population under 12 who are not, at this time, eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

Physicians are saying the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from Delta is to get fully vaccinated — get both doses of the two-dose vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna and then wait the recommended two-week period for those shots to take full effect. And follow CDC prevention guidelines both for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The Delta variant apparently is able to infect multiple people at the same time.

But this area’s rate of vaccination has gotten so low we have a stockpile of the vaccines.

Meanwhile, with the reopening of movie theaters and concert venues and a return to “normal,” no one in this area seems too worried about being infected anymore.

Gov. Brian Kemp, all aglow with unemployment numbers showing a rapid return of the state’s economy, has seemingly been on every news-talk show available (with the exception, of course, of CNN and MSNBC) to tout his courageous effort to get people back to work in Georgia amid the pandemic. 

Is it courageous leadership to give people what they want, or what they need — even if it means requiring people to do something like not being among crowds in places like churches?

Churches are the places the less contagious variant of the disease spread like wildfire in places like Bartow County in northwest Georgia in March 2020. 

With this news about the Delta variant and the fact it’s so easy to get a vaccination, isn’t it time you protect yourself and your loved ones?

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The News. Reach him at