By Gordon McHenry, Jr., United Way of King County President and CEO
Most of us are tired, exhausted, by the pandemic. Thousands have lost family, friends and other loved ones. Now, with the vaccine available to all adults in the United States, it is incumbent upon all of us to get vaccinated to put this crisis behind us.
Getting vaccinated is an urgent matter. We are in a war against time and a virus that has already changed into more infectious forms. The sooner the vast majority of us get the shot, the sooner we can fully begin to restart the economy and the much-needed recovery.
Close to 88 million people, or more than 26% of the population, have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. And almost 66% of those 65 and over, who have been most at risk of getting the disease, are now protected. But too many are hesitant to get the jab, and others are defying the science behind the vaccine.
We know that vaccines have not been distributed equitably across our communities of color. Black, brown and Indigenous people—who have been impacted by coronavirus infections, disease, hospitalizations and fatalities at much higher rates relative to the population—are not getting the shot because of entrenched inequities in our health care system.
While King County is making progress on getting communities of color vaccinated, it is still not enough, and more must be done to get everyone vaccinated, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The Ugly History of Science and People of Color
It is understandable that many people of color are reluctant to get the vaccine. Black, Latino and Indigenous people have been subjected to blatant medical abuses under the guise of science, non-consensual procedures or racist eugenics programs that sought to reduce their populations.
It is an ugly racist history that we are still fighting to this day, so this hesitancy is well-warranted. However, in this case, we can trust the science and the medicine. The process of vaccine development has been open and transparent, and the side effects have been documented and investigated.
Some of those side effects have caused general discomfort among some people. However, the alternative of not getting immunized can be fatal. Nationally, we are getting close to 600,000 deaths, a grim record. Of those, 1,500 lived in King County, where community transmission is still high.
The vaccine can also reduce the need for hospitalization in case of infection. Those who are hospitalized due to serious disease can have lingering symptoms for months and even risk death months after contracting the disease, as a brand new study has shown.
It is time to ignore the naysayers who to this day still deny that the pandemic is real and who refuse to get vaccinated. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is real. This is a serious crisis that demands an effort from all of us to get protected from disease and death.
When you get vaccinated, you’re not doing it just for yourself. You’re doing it for those close to you, for your friends and family, and for the community. If we want to see an end to this pandemic and get back to some sense of normalcy, we need to get vaccinated. I’m fully vaccinated and I implore you to do the same!
For a list of resources on where to obtain vaccination locations and other information, please click here.