No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” wrote English poet John Donne. Never is that more true than when a society is faced with a unseen, quickly spreading virus that has killed over 600,000 Americans.

The choice to get vaccinated for covid is not made in isolation. The repercussions have a ripple effect; one person’s decision to not get vaccinated is forcing a multitude of decisions on others in the community:

A single, working mother may have to decide to leave the workforce if her child’s daycare is shut down because of covid cases;

An employer - already strapped to find employees in the tight labor market - may have to decide if they can keep the business open with employees out sick with COVID-19;

A person battling cancer may be condemned to home isolation because they can’t risk exposure to the coronavirus;

Nursing home residents, although vaccinated along with staff, may once again face isolation and separation from their loved ones because visitation regulations are determined by the infection rate in the community outside of the nursing home;

Children may face another year of disrupted classes as the fast-spreading delta variant sweeps through schools;

Doctors and nurses will be faced with the tough choice of placing patients on ventilators, knowing that, statistically, half of those patients will not survive.

These are not choices you want to force on anyone.

An individual’s decision to not get the vaccine is based on a number of reasons, but, according to polls, the most common reason cited is the newness of the vaccines.

The technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, however, has been around for decades. The effort to develop vaccines using messenger RNA began 30 years ago. In the mid-2000s, pharmaceutical companies began investing in this new technology, recognizing its potential use in vaccinations.

Faced with a novel coronavirus, the companies were able to use the research they’d already been doing to create vaccines. Thanks to Operation Warp Speed authorized by President Donald Trump, they were able to accelerate the development and move the vaccine into the manufacturing stage faster.

Some people are concerned there are unknown, long-term effects of the vaccine. The first people to get the vaccines in trials did so over a year ago, in March 2020. The clinical trials showed the vaccines to be safe and effective at curbing serious illness and deaths.

Even with a vaccine, some people may still get covid. The difference, though, is in the severity of the disease. According to the Alabama Hospital Association, 94% of the patients in ICU with covid are not vaccinated.

Dr. Brytney Cobia is one of the doctors treating covid patients at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham. She recently wrote on Facebook: “I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.”

We encourage everyone to discuss the vaccines with your doctor. And remember that the choice to be vaccinated or not is not an isolated decision.

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