If anything crystallized the philosophy fueling last week’s legislative attitude toward COVID-19 vaccinations, it may be this comment:

“We the unvaccinated are not putting the vaccinated at risk.”

So said a woman testifying before one of the House committees that challenged vaccine mandates imposed by employers or the federal government.

The Senate blocked all of those concepts Wednesday.

But the woman and the House that followed her sentiment could not be more wrong.There is no magical membrane sealing off the unvaccinated from the vaccinated. It is one community and it is vulnerable.

Until or unless herd immunity is achieved — and at 48 percent fully vaccinated, Idaho is a long way from getting there — the virus will find its hosts.

So there will be breakthrough infections among the immunized.

Audrey Dutton at the Idaho Capital Sun recently reported that 17,099 fully vaccinated Idahoans contracted COVID-19 since May 15. Of those, 543 got sick enough to require hospitalization. And 226 died from it.

Two groups in particular are at risk: People with compromised immune systems, for whom vaccination has limited benefits, and older people, whose immunity from vaccination wanes more quickly.

Tell them the “unvaccinated are not putting the vaccinated at risk.”

The longer the virus spreads among the unvaccinated, the more virulent it’s becoming. The delta variant is putting a higher percentage of people in the hospital — and killing more of them — than the strain that first emerged 20 months ago.

Tell them the “unvaccinated are not putting the vaccinated at risk.”

So far, the mutating coronavirus has not become resistant to the vaccine. But if a vaccine-resistant strain does emerge, it will come from the infection of the unvaccinated and those who were iummocompromised.

That’s because vaccinated people who suffer a breakthrough infection have a shorter, milder illness. They’re less likely to spread the virus, much less give it a chance to mutate among the population.

Not so among those who are unvaccinated.

So this is a race between an evolving virus and the vaccine. The way to win is to get more people vaccinated and reduce the number of susceptible hosts.

Studies among health care workers suggest that while the vaccines stopped 94.3 percent of infections from the earlier strain, its effectiveness dropped to 75.6 percent with the delta variant. That’s based on studies of younger health care workers who did not become severely ill. But one in five who did become infected were still suffering from symptoms six weeks later. And, of course, they risked infecting others with less robust immune systems.

Tell them the “unvaccinated are not putting the vaccinated at risk.”

And for weeks, Idaho’s hospitals have been so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients — virtually all of them unvaccinated — that the system has been authorized to ration life-saving care to those with the best prospects of long-term survival.

The pressure is easing off. Still, that’s little comfort to the elderly woman who’s becoming increasingly frail because the backlogged hospital can’t admit her for a hip replacement. What do you say to the heart patient who can’t get his aortic valve replacement surgery scheduled?

That the “unvaccinated are not putting the vaccinated at risk”?

Say what you will about requiring people to get the shot. But mandates save lives.

With virtually no mandates in place, Idaho trails 48 states and the District of Columbia in its vaccination rate. Only West Virginia’s rate is lower.

Washington, which is under a state mandate, has the 15th highest proportion of its population vaccinated

All of which leads to this stark comparison: Idaho’s death rate is 213 per 100,000 population; Washington comes in substantially lower at 119 per 100,000.

As Dr. Bob Lutz, health officer for Asotin County, told the Lewiston Tribune’s Craig Clohessy last week: “Those proclamations and mandates have been based on the science, and I think history will look back and say some states did better than others.” — M.T.