With the increasing number of Americans vaccinated and the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions around the country, we are getting back to the old “normal.” It is almost a surreal experience to walk into a store or attend a public event and see no masks in sight. Although it feels good to be getting our old lives back, the tragic experience of lockdowns, deaths and societal impact from COVID-19 is something we should never forget. And we’re not out of the woods yet.
Everything that has been achieved in the past few months could be at risk if people do not get vaccinated. Though incentives for vaccinations can be a motivator, we shouldn’t need monetary incentive to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbors.
According to Mayo Clinic, 54.7 percent of Minnesotans have received at least one vaccine dose, and 46.6 percent are fully vaccinated. To fully stomp out the diseaase those numbers need to be 70 to 90 percent. Though COVID-19 numbers are the lowest we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, we still had more than a thousand new cases, and 40 deaths, in Minnesota during the past week according to the Star Tribune.
COVID-19 isn’t static, as we have seen with the number of variants that have developed, and if a COVID variant emerges that is not covered by the vaccines, then we are back to square one of having little effective measures to prevent its spread besides masks and social distancing. That is why it is imperative everyone who can be vaccinated gets their doses. The sooner we reach higher levels of vaccination, the more likely it is we can put COVID-19 behind us for good.
However, there is some hesitancy with COVID-19 vaccines in the general public. From the New York Times, in Minnesota there is about 10 to 20 percent of the population that didn’t say they would “definitely” or “probably” get vaccinated or that they were already vaccinated. This represents a roadblock to achieving that 70-90 percent number we will need to eradicate COVID-19.
The state government is doing something about this, with Gov. Walz announcing the Summer Vaccine Awards program to give the first 100,000 Minnesotans who get vaccinated between now and June 30 free items, such as fishing licenses, State Park passes and Visa gift cards. Private employers are also offering incentives to employees to go in and get their shots. To me though, these programs imply we need to pay people in order to take a common-sense step for public health. And what about the hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who already were vaccinated before the rewards system was set up? It doesn’t make sense they should get nothing while people who held out are rewarded for waiting.
Vaccinations are something we shouldn’t need to be bribed for; they’re a simple step to take that protects ourselves and everyone around us from the deadly effects of COVID-19. And large-scale vaccination isn’t new. We have largely eliminated diseases like polio, smallpox, and measles that were once scourges across the United States because most of the U.S. population has been vaccinated against them from an early age. Why should COVID-19 be any different?
To stop any additional spread and prevent a potential resurgence of COVID-19, everyone who can be vaccinated for COVID-19 should get their doses as soon as possible. If we want to preserve the gains we have made against this disease and keep from having to institute large-scale health measures again, having a higher percentage of Minnesotans vaccinated will help us keep those masks from needing to be used.
It’s just common sense, let’s get vaccinated Minnesota.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.