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Bladine: Holidays filled with uncertainty

Pandemic-related numbers are mind-numbing, even as they help us make better decisions. Behind the numbers, real people continue to suffer and die from the COVID-19 virus.

Here are some disquieting statistics to mull over while preparing for family — and multi-family — holiday celebrations:

Two-thirds of Oregonians (61 percent nationwide) are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19, but still susceptible to contracting the virus. Oregon has only a handful of cases from the new, highly contagious Omicron variant, but that virus mutation is spreading exponentially.

Vaccine booster shots greatly bolster protection against Omicron, but just 33 percent of Oregonians (28 percent nationwide) have received boosters. Unfortunately, delivery of booster shots is being obstructed by shortages of health care workers and, in some cases, the vaccine itself.

The real conundrum for a pandemic-weary population is behind closed doors in families with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated loved ones. Vaccinated people are highly unlikely to suffer serious illness from COVID, but they can transmit the virus to those who are sharing close contact during the holiday season.

Passions run high. People still resisting vaccination may be fearful of misleading “facts” and conspiracy theories; they may be confused, or simply stubborn; a few have health concerns based on initial reaction to the vaccine. Whatever the source of individual anti-vaccination mindsets, results can be tragic.

Holiday planning adds to the uncertainty. Do you worry more that unvaccinated people might infect you, or that you might infect them? Do you succumb to feelings that someone is being selfish, or maintain close ties to family and friends while taking common sense precautions? If unvaccinated, will you volunteer to stay away from a holiday gathering, or force an inevitable confrontation that has the potential for lasting recriminations?

Even more difficult: As a society, do we consider elimination of masks and other pandemic-related mandates in the belief that vaccinated people with booster shots are risking only mild symptoms, while unvaccinated people have chosen the potential for more serious fates? If health care systems are overrun, do we even consider limited allocation of hospital beds to unvaccinated people with COVID-19?

Uncertainties abound, but one thing is sure: If you want to get vaccinated, or if you really want to get a booster vaccine shot, you can make that happen. And if not — for you as much as anyone else — we still can wish you all the joys of a happy holiday season and a healthy, prosperous New Year.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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