Opinion: Do it today

Idaho has one of the most dismal COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation. This is scary and sad. As a retired registered nurse and a fully vaccinated grandmother, I want to encourage my neighbors who are on the fence to get vaccinated. With the highly contagious delta variant lurking about, cases and deaths are rising, and more people are going to end up with long-term health problems from this dangerous virus. The pandemic is now being called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” But everyone has the ability to opt out.

There are two kinds of people who aren’t vaccinated. There are vaccine-hesitators and anti-vaxxers. Anti-vaxxers insist they’ll never get vaccinated. Their reluctance is tied to politics, conspiracy theories and a nebulous connection to freedom. These folks need to know they can get vaccinated in private. Trump did. Melania did. If you are an anti-vaxxer, I respect your right to be one. But I am sorry for you.

The vaccine-hesitators are the folks I’m talking to. You are scared, and your fears are not unreasonable. The various vaccines were developed quickly, and there is misinformation swirling around. It’s no wonder you don’t know whom to trust, and it’s understandable that you feel safer waiting. Let me tell you why I believe you’ll be safer and happier if you get vaccinated too.

The vaccine was rushed, not because safety was compromised, but because an unprecedented number of premier medical scientists collaborated and concentrated to get it done quickly. This vaccine is the most scrutinized in history. Every person who gets it is given explicit instructions on how to report side effects or problems. As in all vaccines, there are rare exceptions. Medical researchers assure us that the risk of dying or getting long-term health problems from COVID-19 vastly outstrip the vaccines’ rare side effects. Intense monitoring of the more than 3.9 billion doses administered worldwide have shown overwhelming evidence that the vaccine is safe.

Another falsity that should be laid to rest is that you can get COVID-19 from the vaccine. The new mRNA vaccines encode only a protein from the virus surface, and older vaccines have a killed virus, so it’s not possible. I also hope nobody is seriously worrying about being implanted with a chip or having their DNA altered. There is no evidence of either of these, and no, I did not have a magnet stick to my face after my vaccination.

It’s hard to understand why the COVID-19 vaccine became so politicized. Even with 600,000 Americans dead, why do so many Trump supporters still cling to his claim that the pandemic is a hoax? And why is the far-right equating vaccination with relinquishing freedom? After getting my vaccine, I cried tears of relief and felt free from worry.

It’s time to stop hesitating. This vaccine can save your life. A vaccine ended the scourge of polio in the United States, and it can end this pandemic too. But only when enough people ignore politics and listen to their doctors.

Don’t get vaccinated for me, Joe Biden or anybody else. Get vaccinated for yourself and your peace of mind. Do it today.

Jackie Stephens is the Precinct 21 captain for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.