If you are a New York resident and are 16 or older, you can now be vaccinated against COVID-19.

This is a huge step in working toward reaching herd immunity and finally defeating this pandemic that has taken the lives of at least 184 local residents so far, and disrupted the lives of everyone else.

This has been a slow process.

When the vaccines were first approved, those who could receive them were limited because the vaccines were limited. That made sense. Those at the highest risk of spreading the disease, such as front-line workers, or most at risk of dying, such as nursing home residents and the very elderly, were made priorities. 

As more vaccine was produced, eligibility and vaccination sites increased as well. 

There is also promising news on the horizon. The Pfizer vaccine, which is the only vaccine approved in the United States for 16- and 17-year-olds, in studies has been shown to be safe and effective for children as young as 12. It may gain approval in younger teens by summer.

We were very happy when the state-run site in Oneonta opened last month. Residents no longer had to drive an hour or jump on the computer to schedule an appointment for the scarce vaccinations being offered locally, which were often booked within minutes. 

It’s still not simple to get vaccinated. There are not a plethora of available slots at local vaccination sites. The state-run site at SUNY Oneonta only had about a half-dozen appointments available through the end of the month as of noon Tuesday. Most pharmacies that carry the vaccine still have wait lists, but it is not quite the “Hunger Games” mentality it once was.

Of course, the largest hurdle that needs to be cleared is getting those who are eligible but are leery about getting vaccinated to roll up their sleeves.

Some are concerned about the after-effects of the vaccine. 

Yes, there have been some severe reactions. Many people have complained about not feeling well for hours, if not a couple days, after the second shot.

But this isn’t true for everyone. Some people don’t have much more than a sore arm.

And a few days of feeling bad is much better than days, weeks or months in the hospital on a ventilator or dying from COVID, or you or spreading the disease to a loved one. 

Also much too much misinformation is being spread, especially via social media. 

No, there are no nano-trackers planted by Bill Gates in the vaccines.

No, the vaccine is not going to change your DNA.

No, this is not just another way for the government to control you. As of right now, it is not mandated by the government.

Vaccination works. So many diseases that were widespread in the past, for example polio, small pox, measles and mumps, have been wiped out or extremely limited because of required vaccines.

Getting vaccinated to reach herd immunity, which is having about 75% of the population inoculated against a disease to help limit its spread, is simply the neighborly thing to do. 

If we can’t get to herd immunity with voluntary vaccination, it may come to being mandated. We would rather not see that happen.

We’d like to think that we care enough about our neighbors, our families and ourselves to get vaccinated.

The quicker we can end this pandemic, or at least get it under control, the quicker life can get back to normal.

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