After a year and a half of mostly online classes, University of Wisconsin administrators worried about how in-person classes would affect the campus rate of COVID-19 infection.

But now with the first week over, COVID-19 cases still remain extremely low. This is an amazing accomplishment given all of the other in-person events that happened around campus this week.

The most significant cause of anxiety was the Badger football game which twice now had an attendance of over 80,000 unmasked spectators. The game was accompanied by a reinvigorated campus bar scene including thousands more unmasked customers almost every night of the week.

Even within these likely places of transmission, only 67 students and six employees tested positive for COVID-19 last week. In Dane County as a whole, there has been an average of 109 new cases a week and an average of 78 new hospitalizations a week. These statistics are better than most other parts of Wisconsin, which see higher infection and hospitalization rates.

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Why is there this difference? The most likely cause is the extraordinarily high vaccination rate among UW students and staff. Currently, 89.2% of students and 92.3% of campus employees are fully vaccinated, which is much higher than the state of Wisconsin as a whole with only 55% of the population fully vaccinated.

Given the array of in-person campus events this year, one would have expected a larger increase in COVID-19 cases this Sept. But despite body to body attendance at football games and campus bars, it seems like the COVID-19 vaccines are doing their job and preventing infection — even against the more contagious delta variant.

This success should be noticed by the rest of the state as other Wisconsinites decide whether or not to get vaccinated. If the question is whether the vaccines work, UW has certainly proved the answer is a stunning ‘yes.’

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One may remain skeptical of cases being undercounted since only unvaccinated students must be tested weekly, so vaccinated students could be getting sick and not reporting it.

But this scenario seems unlikely, since the overall community hospitalization and infection rate also remains low, meaning vaccinated people don’t seem to be spreading the virus significantly among the general population.

More evidence continues to show a higher potential for harm while being unvaccinated and infected in comparison to those who are vaccinated and become infected.

A recent CDC study found unvaccinated people are 4.5 times more likely to get infected than vaccinated people, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die. Unvaccinated people continue to make up over 90% of those hospitalized for COVID-19.

Wisconsinites who are unvaccinated need to realize the potential immediate dangers for their own health if they continue to remain unvaccinated. Not to mention by not being vaccinated, these people are continuing to spread the virus, increasing the rate of infection and allowing for the disease to continue to mutate.

While those who are vaccinated are more protected, and those who are not are at a greater risk of hospitalization and death from unvaccinated people spreading the virus.

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The CDC continues to state COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, given they were evaluated by tens of thousands of participants during their trials as this continues to be the most monitored vaccination campaign in history. The CDC website also describes how harsh side effects are very rare and long-term effects from vaccination are even rarer.

According to the CDC, most long-term effects from vaccines begin within six weeks of receiving a dose, which is why the vaccines were required to be studied for two months after their participants received their last dose. Of the millions of people who have received the vaccine, no long-term side effects have been detected.

What is more common is people having long-term complications from being unvaccinated and having a severe case of COVID-19 infection. Severe cases can cause long term damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys, brain and other organs. COVID-19 vaccines are known to be almost 100% effective to prevent severe infections and thus mitigate the chances of long term damage.

UW has shown vaccination can prevent severe cases of COVID-19 and mitigate transmission. The rest of Wisconsin needs to look at Madison’s example and consider the consequences of remaining unvaccinated.