It’s time for us all to rally together as Americans. It’s tragic that the COVID-19 vaccine is seen as a partisan weapon, rather than as the life-saving and economy-restoring tool that it actually is.

If you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, please reevaluate your decision.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not a partisan issue. It is an infectious disease that has killed at least 574,000 Americans as of May 2. It causes disabling symptoms in some people, yet most have no or minimal effects. Short of daily testing, it is impossible to know if you are infected and a carrier of the virus, capable of infecting others more vulnerable than you.

Umatilla County Commissioner John Shafer deserves kudos for standing tall to deliver a message that should not be necessary but, because of the era we live in, is needed now more than ever.

Last week, Shafer sent a message, loud and clear: Get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I want people to know — don’t be afraid of the vaccine,” he said.

Shafer and fellow commissioner George Murdock spoke last week regarding the mystery swirling around how a vaccine designed to help people could become a flashpoint politicized issue. It’s much like abortion, climate change, federal spending, or any other subject a corps of misinformed political theorists and television pundits can stir up to get ratings.

On April 21, President Biden described getting vaccinated as a “patriotic duty” for Americans. We agree.

There is historical precedent for this view. During the 1918-19 influenza epidemic, the American Red Cross stated, “The man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker.” Americans were urged to think of following health precautions as their patriotic duty. Back then, vaccination was not an option.

A certain amount of caution is normal and expected when a new vaccine becomes available. That is why vaccines go through intensive clinical trials as required by the agencies whose role it is to safeguard the public, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines that are available in the U.S. have been tested and deemed safe. When there was even a question of safety — such as the case with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine causing blood clots in a small number of people — officials pulled the vaccine to do further analysis.

In the words of Joe Fiumara, county public health director: “I think people are recognizing that this is our path out of here,” he said. “People who were more on the fence aren’t so on the fence now that millions and millions across the country are receiving it with very low side effects or down side.”

Turn off the TV. Listen to the public health experts. Be a patriot. Get vaccinated.

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