Brittany Duru, a pharmacist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepares syringes with saline that will later be mixed with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month in Clovis.

I once thought vaccine conspiracy theories were believed exclusively by gullible people easily duped by misinformation spread on Facebook. The idea that vaccines cause autism is in the same vein as the world being flat. These are ideas that nobody should take seriously to begin with, but that is the issue: They are.

As society begins to reopen, we have to consider the implications that come when some portions of the population are not vaccinated for the coronavirus. Given the reluctance or refusal by some people to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons, mainly being misinformation and mistrust, we will have a problem.

This is an issue that is compounded by the fact some states have forbidden universities from requiring vaccines for their students, such as Florida, Nevada and Alabama. Some schools, such as the University of New Mexico, are encouraging vaccinations but have not mandated it.

Some people might be freaking out about this, as it goes against common sense: If last year proved anything, it is that universities are the perfect place for infection. They should be the places we would most want to limit spread.

It is a problem for schools if large numbers of students are ill with COVID-19, and it is a serious liability for businesses if employees get the virus and die. Requiring people to get vaccinated would help solve that. We should eradicate this thing like we did with polio, for which vaccination was not a choice. But that won’t happen due to the aforementioned decisions. It is dangerously stupid.

So, it is up to people to take it upon themselves to get vaccinated. The government really wants people to do it, especially given the delta variant is hitting unvaccinated groups especially hard. The problem is, people are likely not going to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. Anyone can go get a vaccine. This has been the case for a few months, more than long enough to clarify side effects and ample time to be fully vaccinated. Choices have been made. It is a situation of leading a horse to water, but one cannot make it drink.

People have fallen for and perpetuated conspiracy theories, mistrust in science or are just putting stake in political beliefs, all cognizant action on the part of those involved, and has hurt any chance of encouragement from the government. To compound this, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been largely vilified by former President Donald Trump. It is unfortunate anything Fauci or the Biden administration does to help is not going to sit well with Trump’s supporters, but that is how it is.

Despite this, I think there is definitely some reluctance to reopen fully because vaccination numbers are not where they should be. People who won’t get vaccinated are doing so at their own risk. That is their choice, but it is holding the rest of society back. So why don’t we just reopen? Anyone who wants protection can have it. We are no longer depending on someone to protect us by wearing a mask. Now we have the ability to protect ourselves; we don’t need others to comply for our safety.

It is unfortunate that misinformation and conspiracies are a factor in this, especially doubt coming from people in positions of power, but it isn’t like the reasons to get vaccinated are not well known. Choosing to ignore the voices of experts and give credit to conspiracy is entirely a voluntary action. For politicians who don’t require vaccinations, you are only hurting your communities. There are no political gains to be made from this.

Ben Timm will attend the University of Utah in the fall. Contact him at monkebuziness@gmail.com.

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