When the first case of COVID-19 appeared in the U.S in early 2020, no one knew it would unfold like it did. Schools and offices shut down, life came to a standstill, and fear for the future manifested through empty grocery store aisles and toilet paper shortages.

Now, a year after the first reported case, people are beginning to receive the first vaccine doses. It’s important that people take the vaccine when it becomes available.

For many, the vaccine is a chance at a normal life. It’s a chance to return to jobs and put food on the table again. And it’s a chance to ease the burden of fear and concern that rests on the shoulders of so many people at highest risk: the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and those working on the front lines.

More than that, it’s a way to mitigate the deaths and the spread of the disease. More than 405,000 people have died in America alone because of COVID-19, and worldwide, that figure is over 2 million. Inoculating populations against a deadly virus — especially one that potentially carries serious long-term effects — means slowing the growing number of cases and frightening death rates. For many, a vaccine is the difference between life and death.

Like wearing masks and social distancing, the decision to vaccinate is something that affects those around me. It’s important that I and other teens are vaccinated to potentially save lives.

I especially want to make the right decision for people who do not have the opportunity to get vaccinated and are still affected by the community’s choices. The consequences of refusing to vaccinate for other diseases have led to a resurgence of dangerous illnesses. Measles, for example, was previously thought to have been eradicated, but some small outbreaks continued, thanks in part to the anti-vaxxing trend. In 2019, the number of measles cases reached a high of over 1,100 — the greatest in the U.S. since 1992.

The coronavirus vaccines also carry the hope of returning to a more normal version of life with birthday parties, graduations, classes and proms all held in person, without Zoom calls or Google Meets.

While the relative novelty of the vaccines and the speed at which they were developed are a source of concern to many — some say they don’t want to be “guinea pigs” — the vaccines have strong foundations in previous research about related viruses, and there have been several trials.

Of course, there is no way to guarantee the vaccines are completely safe, but the scientific evidence behind the vaccine is important to consider.

It’s important that we trust science and don’t refuse the vaccine out of fear.

Niveditha Bala is a senior

at Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her

at niveditha.bala@mandela

internationalschool.us.

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