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As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

From the beginning, I didn’t want to believe COVID-19 was as threatening as people were making it out to be. Surely it was overkill for people to be wearing masks outdoors when studies showed the chances of the virus spreading in open air were miniscule. I wondered whether it was worth the emotional toll for people to isolate so completely from each other. Last summer, I asked someone who works in public health when things would get back to normal. When he replied, “Possibly July 2021,” I didn’t want to believe him—it couldn’t take that long.

But I was certain of one fact—as soon as the vaccine was developed and distributed, we’d be able to stop wearing masks. We’d be able to visit elderly relatives again. I could cross the border to visit my Canadian parents and siblings without a quarantine. I prayed in earnest for quick approval of a vaccine.

Now several COVID-19 vaccines are here, developed, approved, available to everyone 16 and over in the United States … and I’m shocked that some of my friends refuse to get the shot. Some say they’ve already had COVID-19, or they say they are worried about taking a vaccine approved only for emergency use. They don’t want the government to tell them what to do. They see no need to receive this vaccine.

I received the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I could because I am eager for our society to return to a normal way of life. I want to smile at strangers again. I want restaurants and other affected businesses to be able to fully reopen. Now that half of North Carolinians are at least partially vaccinated (according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services), our governor recently dropped the outdoor mask requirement. In an April 28 address, he set a goal: when two thirds of state residents have had at least one shot, the indoor mask requirement will be dropped. I hope we can get there! Getting back to normal will help the economy, and it will restore our collective emotional health.

I got vaccinated because I’ve heard about Long COVID, and it seems a much greater danger than a vaccine that has already undergone significant testing. A nurse I know has been feeling tired and unwell since she came down with COVID-19 a year ago. A recent study of health care workers in Sweden who had had COVID-19 found that more than 10 percent of them report Long COVID symptoms—and these were mainly healthy, younger people. According to the Center for Disease Control, the symptoms of Long COVID include fatigue, brain fog, loss of smell and taste, dizziness when standing, heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, and joint and muscle pain. No one knows exactly how long Long COVID is, but it is showing all the signs of being a chronic autoimmune disorder. I have numerous friends who have debilitating autoimmune illnesses, and I know how much it impacts their lives. Weighing the risks, I’d rather take a vaccine approved for emergency use than risk Long COVID.

I got vaccinated because I want everyone to be able to sing and worship together freely again. As someone who loves to sing, I’d been planning to join the church choir before COVID-19 began. Two weeks ago, my church started meeting indoors for the first time. The praise team sings with masks on and the rest of us are quiet for the first few numbers. At the end of the service, we do sing a couple songs with our masks on before the ushers dismiss us, distanced row by distanced row. Oh, to sing and worship the Lord freely together with no thought of viruses!

I got vaccinated quite early because my 77-year-old friend kept asking me to. “You work with children,” she insisted. Our mutual friend who is a doctor also encouraged me to get the shot. She was the first person I know to get the vaccine. In fact, more than 95 percent of physicians are choosing to get vaccinated, according to study cited in Medical Economics Journal. I only teach one afternoon a week, but I signed up for the shot in early March; by then I could tell the vaccine distribution was accelerating. Ever since my vaccination, my friend has been totally comfortable visiting indoors, exchanging hugs, and eating together. Being able to spend time with her normally again has been a wonderful benefit of receiving the vaccine.

I got vaccinated in order to love my neighbors. In Jeremiah 29:7, the Lord tells the exiled Israelites to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” As a Christian, I believe that getting vaccinated is a way of seeking peace and prosperity for my city and my nation, and for people around the globe. Jesus pointed out that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). When I make decisions, I aim to consider what is good for others on an equal plane with what is good for me. And the COVID-19 vaccine has already been very beneficial to others; in England, for example, the BBC reported in March that the vaccine had already saved about 6,000 lives. Moreover, many of our neighbors are living in isolation and fear. While working as a census taker last fall, I encountered people who hadn’t left their homes in months. One woman’s front porch was covered in caution tape. A couple drew back the heavy curtain over their front window and made angry signs at me to go away. If high vaccination rates can help these people feel free again, I am glad to be doing my part.

There are so many individual and societal benefits to the COVID-19 vaccine. In my opinion, the statistically minor risks do not compare to the overwhelming advantages. My family and I are choosing to trust that the COVID-19 vaccine is a gift from God and the best way forward. I believe getting vaccinated is an important way to love our neighbors in 2021.

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