While we’re not out of the woods yet, there is a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The development of COVID-19 vaccinations in less than a year is extraordinary. This has offered hope to many people after all the tragic news we’ve endured.

The number of doses is limited, so authorities have established specific criteria for individuals who should be prioritized when it comes to receiving the vaccine. It makes sense that front line workers be immunized immediately as they regularly come into contact with people who are infected.

Elderly people are eligible to receive vaccines as well. They are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, so they deserve protection. In addition, people with documented cases of comorbidities also will be able to get the shots beginning early next week.

Given the dreadful toll that the coronavirus pandemic has taken — more than 2.3 million people across the world have died, nearly 480,000 of them in the United States — it’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to be immunized. But numerous individuals have serious doubts about the vaccination, and they’re taking a wait-and-see approach.

Such an attitude could impair efforts to bring about herd immunity. This occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population is protected against a disease that it safeguards the rest of those who haven’t been vaccinated.

There are people who can’t receive the shots. They include infants, whose immune systems are still developing, and individuals who are allergic to certain medications. It’s vital to ensure they aren’t exposed to people who are infected because they can’t benefit from the vaccines.

Sadly, there are many who are refusing to be vaccinated, at least for the time being. An Associated Press story published Wednesday revealed some very alarming information.

“About 1 in 3 Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a new poll that some experts say is discouraging news if the U.S. hopes to achieve herd immunity and vanquish the outbreak. The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that while 67% of Americans plan to get vaccinated or have already done so, 15% are certain they won’t and 17% say probably not,” the article reported. “Many expressed doubts about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. The poll suggests that substantial skepticism persists more than a month and a half into a U.S. vaccination drive that has encountered few if any serious side effects. It found that resistance runs higher among younger people, people without college degrees, Black Americans and Republicans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading infectious-disease scientist, has estimated that somewhere between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population needs to get inoculated to stop the scourge that has killed close to 470,000 Americans.”

It’s understandable that many people have questions about the vaccinations and concerns about possible side effects. But numerous public health experts have affirmed the safety of these shots and their effectiveness. The other option is to trust the virus — and that’s a losing bet.

Yes, we Americans are free to decide for ourselves if we want to be immunized. But responsibility always accompanies freedom.

Controlling the coronavirus requires all of us to do our part, and being vaccinated is the best option for everyone eligible. Being good Americans means looking out for those around us. So get the shot, and help protect your loved ones, friends and neighbors.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1