Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Decatur Daily on the COVID-19 vaccine and the variant viruses:
The race against the new coronavirus is a race against time. The longer it takes to vaccinate people and the longer it takes for populations to reach herd immunity, the more time the virus that causes COVID-19 has to mutate.
The COVID variants are deadlier and more readily spread than the original version at the start of the pandemic a year ago. These variants are the main reason for the deadly surge now sweeping much of Europe (but not the United Kingdom) and South America.
The good news, however, is our existing vaccines still provide a great deal of protection against them. The variant viruses may infect someone inoculated against the original strain, but that person is still less likely to require hospitalization or die from it.
The bad news is, worldwide vaccination is still proceeding at a glacial pace, while countries that have succeeded in vaccinating large proportions of their people — Israel, the U.S. and Britain — have so far not seen a widespread increase in cases. (Some specific areas, like Michigan, have seen deadly surges.)
Meanwhile, scientists are tweaking their vaccines to deal with the new variants. The original Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were formulated within days of Chinese scientists releasing the virus’s genetic sequence. They are adjusting their vaccines to the variants just as quickly.
This is important both to stopping the virus’s spread and because there is no guarantee the virus’s next mutation won’t prove deadly even to those already vaccinated.
“We need to be ahead of the virus,” said Dr. Nadine Rouphael of Emory University in Atlanta, who is helping to lead a study of Moderna’s tweaked vaccine candidate. “We know what it’s like when we’re behind.”
The prospect of getting further behind, especially while so many countries and some states — like Alabama — are already behind in vaccinating their populations, is why the news of a pause in some vaccinations is so troubling.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended pausing use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of rare but dangerous blood clots.
This is similar to the delays in many European countries, now facing a surge in coronavirus cases, where there have been concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots.
How rare are the blood clots associated with the J&J vaccine? There have been six reported cases and one death out of the more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine that have been given in the U.S. That’s less than one in 1 million, as compared to the 1 in 1,000 risk of developing a blood clot from taking hormonal birth control pills, according to the National Blood Clot Alliance.
“6 cases out of 7 million people. What a disaster,” tweeted statistician Nate Silver, founder of the number-crunching website fivethirtyeight.com. “This is going to get people killed. And it’s going to create more vaccine hesitancy. These people don’t understand cost-benefit analysis. They keep making mistakes by orders of magnitude.”
The potential blood clot issue was not unknown when the FDA approved the J&J vaccine. Indeed, it was an issue that delayed its approval.
Obviously, any side effects associated with any of the vaccines need to be studied, but that can take place even as the vaccines are used, and right now, based on everything we know, the benefits far exceed the risks.
There is a fine line between precaution and covering one’s rear, and this time officials seem to have crossed the line — even as researchers try to keep us from falling behind again.
The Dothan Eagle on alcohol delivery:
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, people all over the nation found themselves grounded, confined to their homes either by governmental mandate or their own caution, venturing out tentatively for necessities, if at all.
The marketplace rose to the challenge. Delivery services proliferated, and grocery stores and restaurants that didn’t already have a relationship with a delivery business soon found one, or created their own.
A challenge arose for those who might have hoped to have alcohol delivered; beer, wine, and liquor are held to different rules than eggs and milk.
Alabama lawmakers face a raft of challenges of great importance, but made a priority of legislation to approve delivery of beer, wine, and spirits. This week, Gov. Kay Ivey signed the alcohol delivery bill into law, and after Oct. 1, Alabama residents can summon their favorite adult beverage through a delivery app on their smartphones.
It will provide a convenient service to Alabama residents, and will likely keep some folks who shouldn’t be driving from making a beer or wine run.
Now that they’ve codified liquor delivery, lawmakers should turn their attention to some of the more challenging issues in the state, such as the corrections system and litigation from the U.S. Justice Department.
The Dothan Eagle on the Confederate pension tax:
It will likely surprise most Alabama property owners that 156 years after the Civil War, they’re still paying a tax implemented to fund pensions for Confederate soldiers and their widows.
It’s safe to say that its original purpose has run its course. The last Confederate widow in Alabama, Alberta Martin of Elba, died in 2004. She had begun drawing a Confederate pension in 1996 after two local men learned that she wasn’t receiving the benefit.
However, it’s a rare occurrence when an implemented tax is removed, and the portion of the ad valorem assessment that feeds the Confederate pension fund has continued since its inception. Most of the money is diverted to other uses, but a portion — about $500,000 — was carved out to fund the Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, a state facility created in 1964 at the site of a former Confederate veterans home as “a shrine to the honor of Alabama’s citizens of the Confederacy.”
Now two state senators, a Republican and a Democrat, plan to co-sponsor a bill that would mandate an equal amount to be directed to Black history sites.
This is an initiative that’s long overdue, and should see every lawmaker sign on as co-sponsors and unanimous passage in both houses.
Otherwise, lawmakers should initiate efforts to end collection of the Confederate pension ad valorem tax.