Keith J. DuPerry registers for his vaccination on the New Haven Green. Carol Leonetti Dannhauser / C-HIT.ORG

Politics has become so polarized that people are refusing a highly effective vaccine for COVID – risking their lives and others. First some facts:

1. COVID is a nasty disease. At least 630,000 Americans have died in the past year and the numbers are so staggering that average life spans have dropped – one year for Caucasians, two years for Hispanics and three years for Blacks. Furthermore, those who survive often have permanent health issues such as decreased lung capacity, weakened cardiac function, neurological deficits and the loss of taste and smell.

Joseph Bentivegna MD

2. The vaccines are highly effective and have minimal risk. Those who are vaccinated have a less than 1% chance of dying from COVID and immunity is achieved in over 90%. Over 177 million Americans have received at least on dose and side effects such as myocarditis (heart swelling), pericarditis (swelling of the lining around the heart) and thrombosis (blot clots in the arteries and/or veins) are so rare that they are measured in cases per million. From a risk/benefit analysis, getting the vaccine is a no-brainer.

3. The Delta variant is aggressive. In states such as Florida and Louisiana where citizens were more cavalier about not being vaccinated, hospitals quickly became overwhelmed.

There is ample legal precedent to force people to take public health measures for the general good. The small pox vaccine – a disease more hideous than COVID – is required by most school districts. In the early 1900s, tuberculosis (TB) was the leading cause of death. As it was spread by airborne bacteria, doctors were required to report infectious patients to the authorities and many of these patients were rounded up and placed in sanitariums against their will. In fact, many of Connecticut’s hospitals were originally TB sanitariums. Those who assert their “rights” to be COVID spreaders are on shaky legal ground.

Many hardcore Trump supporters are suspicious of the vaccine and of reasonable public health measures to prevent COVID from spreading. But it was President Trump, who through the force of his own personality pushed the pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines in record time with Operation Warp Speed. He received the vaccine himself.

Yes, there is a lot of hypocrisy to go around. Our liberal political leaders seem to believe that the virus magically mutates to protect rioters and protesters, while infecting those who go to church or attend motorcycle rallies. President Biden is touting the wonders of masks, vaccines and testing while allowing COVID-infected illegal immigrants to stream across the southern border. Many border patrol agents have been infected and several have died because of this policy.

President Obama just held a huge 60th birthday bash for himself in which the rules of social distancing and masking were largely ignored. But as the denizens of Martha’s Vineyard have discovered, the COVID virus does not watch CNN news and spare rich liberals. After this party, the cases of COVID on Martha’s Vineyard spiked raising the possibility that President Obama’s party was a super spreader event.

Liberal hypocrisy is a reason to get the vaccine, not refuse it.

America is going to have to learn to live with COVID. It is not unreasonable for our political leaders to demand that those of us in contact with the public have the vaccine. Hartford Hospital just required (six months too late in my opinion) that all medical personnel be vaccinated. A similar mandate is being made for teachers.

Life will never be risk free. Since the invention of the automobile, 4 million Americans have been killed in car accidents. But no one is recommending the car be outlawed, only that we drive safely, wear a seatbelt, protect our children with car seats and not be under the influence of alcohol. Americans should view public health measures to prevent COVID in a similar fashion.

Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.