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Being safe, healthy is not controversial

I can’t believe that this discussion is still necessary. What will it take to convince one-third of the American population to get vaccinated?

The level of vaccine hesitancy in this country is astounding. For a nation that has been among the most advanced globally in many ways, at the forefront of wealth, economic growth, scientific and medical developments including vaccines; why do we have such a large portion of our population so unwilling to believe in the capabilities of our country’s scientists to provide us with a means to control this COVID virus?

Why the mistrust and even attacks on our medical professionals, especially Dr. Anthony Fauci, who are acting in the best interest of each and every one of us regardless of our political affiliation, because politics should be irrelevant here. What other virus are we fighting that has infiltrated the minds of so many?

For all the combined wealth of the U.S., there are stark contrasts, areas of the country that are backward by our mean poverty standards. But this is not an obstacle. The vaccines are free.

Enormous efforts are being made to reach poor communities. Minority communities, who have specific fears are being assured by outreach from respected members. Reaching even the remotest of locations, a feat that has been worked out in many places, and mass production of the vaccines has covered availability concerns. Vaccines are even being offered at entertainment events as well as regular clinics.

Although the U.S. is now seeing the need for infrastructure upgrades, recreating the successful public (social) projects of the post-WWII era, we haven’t fallen as far behind in the field of communication. At the very least, radio and TV broadcasts have been available for a long time, now cable, the internet, cell towers stretch across the land, enabling information to reach virtually everyone. So why are so many so ill-informed on the importance, efficacy, and safety of the vaccines at our disposal? A major factor is where individuals choose to get their information.

It started with masks. In the early stages, our scientists were dealing with an unknown and our political leadership at the time was ignorant, dismissive, and ill-prepared for a pandemic. Masks had to be reserved for health care personnel. Once the method of transmission via air was understood, masks became readily available and so recommendations for wearing them became possible.

References to the pandemic of 1918 showed the use of masks helped and as wearing them became common, data confirmed this. But this too became political, the root of which is pol – so, polarizing. The administration botched the response so badly that they needed a cover, so it became un-American, anti-freedom, to wear a mask. If you were in the Trump tribe, with all its vines of misinformation reaching into all parts of our culture, you were against masks, believing that it infringed on your rights. Your right to protect yourself and your loved ones would seem to be an important right that you were actually denying yourself.

Then came the ground-breaking vaccines. Of course, at first uncertainty was expected, they were new. The vaccines of the past that are routine now (for most of us) were new once too. When Salk first developed the polio vaccine, it was new.

Thankfully, people believed that whatever risk the vaccine might have, it was better than contracting polio.

As time went on, data proved it safe and effective, and now we don’t need to worry about polio. COVID has been with us for over a year and a half.

We should realize by now how serious it is. The Delta variant is now the dominant strain and it replicates easier than its predecessor. The younger population is now more at risk.

Areas where vaccination percentages are low are seeing major outbreaks again, overwhelming hospitals- again. Because we have not reached a sufficient level of vaccinations and it is circulating so heavily, we are now seeing fully vaccinated people catching and carrying the virus with, so far, mostly mild symptoms. But it is a determined virus and like weeds, we need to fight it with every means available to prevent it from overtaking us.

The recent relaxing of the mask requirements was a leap of faith that people will be honest. Those who refuse the vaccine also refuse the mask. If one-third of our population is unvaccinated, theoretically we should see on average wherever we go, about one-third of those present wearing masks.

How many masked people have you seen lately? Suddenly, they have all but disappeared. Sadly, they are only fooling themselves and putting themselves and others at risk.

This virus will not go away easily. If we don’t pull together for the good of all, it will keep plaguing us. This is a public health problem, not an individual health problem.

The Department of Health regulates sanitation in the restaurants where we eat. How safe would you feel if there was no regulation? It’s the same idea. The CDC that regulates public health is strongly recommending that everyone who is able should get the vaccination. Since there has been such reluctance, we may have to regress to everyone wearing masks again. In the face of this obstinance, I believe that it is in the interest of the common good for more vaccine requirements — to board a plane or subway, or to go to a game or concert. Employers, with government support, should require employees to get the shots, businesses should be encouraged to require proof of vaccination from their customers. The VA has just instituted this safety protocol.

Getting a COVID shot will not take away anyone’s freedom. It will actually give us more freedom. The argument against the vaccine or masks that “this is a free country” makes no sense. It is a false one anyway. There is no such thing.

Don’t fear the vaccine, fear the virus. Follow the science and make a good decision.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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