FILE - Virus Outbreak Illinois Vaccine

Ongoing pandemic outbreaks in the Upper Midwest illustrate the importance of getting as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. These people waited in line for their shots in Chicago.

With covid vaccination appointments now about to open for all adults, it’s easy to see that by this summer or fall the nation will reach a point when most responsible grownups will be protected. But some significant fraction will hold out for some reason.

Vaccine reluctance or refusal will become annoying in a hurry.

To stop the spread of the increasingly infectious virus and begin cutting off its ability to mutate inside patients, we really need for something like 80% or more of the population to be inoculated. (Just over 45% of Americans currently have received at least one dose.) If we fall very much short of 80%, we’ll continue having covid outbreaks here and there, with each new viral burst bringing with it the possibility of a return to the bad old days of 2020.

Why would anyone choose to remain vulnerable to a deadly and debilitating illness, and at the same time expose their loved ones and community to the same risk? Some have obviously watched too many horror movies in which a well-intentioned therapy goes horribly awry. Others have legitimate concerns rooted in personal health vulnerabilities, or in memories of old public-health missteps, or urban myths about autism. It’s certainly true that medical interventions don’t always go according to plan, and no one wants to be among those who personally encounter some unsuspected side effect. And some are still in the thrall of conspiracy theorists who thought the pandemic was a political ploy that would just disappear the day after the presidential election.

Thankfully, most rational people will continue to note the ongoing lack of serious reactions to the vaccines being given in Pacific County and elsewhere around the nation. Thus far, these covid vaccines continue to be among the great success stories of our time. There is no indication of trouble on the horizon when it comes to safety. The adverse reactions that have been reported — things like a rash near injections sites that some call “covid arm” — probably indicate a healthy immune response to the shot, and certainly are minor in comparison to the peace of mind that comes with being immunized.

Although there are those who suggest vaccine rejectors are their own worst punishment, for their good and ours it makes sense to try to bring everyone along on the path to covid victory. If you’re reading this and fear the vaccine more than the disease, please reach out to the county health department or your own health provider to obtain trusted advice.

To convince at least some of those who are adamant in refusing to believe covid is as serious as it is, it’s up to family members, pastors, local political leaders, business owners, social clubs and everyone else with a voice to continue urging vaccinations. Not everyone will be persuadable. But if reluctance comes down to just fearing needles or something similar, persistent nudges from all of us may be what it takes to save individual lives and put this horrible episode mostly behind us.

We may never entirely conquer covid. It’s entirely possible it will become something like seasonal influenza, require annual booster shots, and nevertheless kill thousands of Americans each year. Even this would be a big improvement over the past year, and the new vaccine technology kickstarted by the Trump administration can quickly adjust to changes in the virus. It will also become increasingly necessary for the U.S. to assist other nations in becoming fully vaccinated. It would be both foolish and inhumane to permit the virus to circulate in less developed countries, thereby sowing the seeds for a future disaster.

There is a brightening light at the end of this long, tedious, scary tunnel. The local and national economies are roaring back to life. It’s essential for us to stay on track and make sure as many as possible are around to celebrate.

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