Editorial: Vaccinations offer hope that end of pandemic, downturn, might be near

Is the end in sight?

As of March 24, 1.43 million Coloradans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — 25% of the state’s population — with 894,526 fully vaccinated.

And the pace of vaccinations is increasing, with Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines — which require two doses — being joined by Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine. AstraZeneca’s vaccine also could soon be injected into arms.

The number of vaccine doses delivered to Colorado is expected to increase markedly in the days and weeks ahead.

Colorado has documented 453,520 cases of the coronavirus, including 25,156 cumulative hospitalizations and 6,183 deaths due to COVID-19.

The cost of the pandemic has been severe, with thousands of jobs lost, longtime businesses closed and dreams shattered.

But we now have hope.

Colorado recently entered Phase 1B.4, expanding access to vaccines to those 50 and older, along with various frontline essential workers. Vaccines will be available to all adults in Colorado by mid-April.

While the state remains far from the threshold for herd immunity — estimated at 80% to 90% of the population — it’s encouraging to have achieved the 25% threshold in terms of vaccinations. Add those individuals who already have some immunity due to having contracted COVID-19, and herd immunity could come faster than expected.

Much work remains to be done, and vigilance is essential. [It’s not the time to stop wearing masks or engaging in social distancing, and some states are moving way too fast in removing all restrictions.] But the signs that we might be getting a handle on the pandemic are encouraging. Colorado has begun to ease some COVID restrictions, allowing many restaurants to operate at higher percentages of capacity, for example.

Nationally, economic growth is projected to exceed 6% in 2021, with Colorado expected to grow substantially. Pent-up demand should bolster consumer activity, helping those sectors that have been hurt the most, including restaurants, hotels and retail shops.

People are hungry to get out into the community, as long as they can do so safely. Many are ready to shift back to an office environment, at least in part. They want to attend a sporting event.

So, as vaccinations continue to pick up pace, we are hopeful that this pandemic will come to an end. And although masks might be with us for some time, it will be a small price to pay for increased social freedoms and a return — even partial — to normalcy.