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Blubaugh: COVID-19 deaths a stark reminder of significance of being vaccinated | COMMENTARY

The only thing I really felt after getting vaccinated against COVID-19 was a pain in my upper right arm that stayed with me for four days.

I thought maybe I would feel something profound, perhaps. At least excitement or peace. Instead, just admiration for the National Guard, the volunteers and the nurses who made the experience so smooth and easy — I had pulled into the parking lot at the Hagerstown outlets Monday morning at 9:11 and by 9:18 I had a hypodermic needle shooting Johnson & Johnson vaccine into my arm.

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I had heard of people getting emotional, crying, hugging strangers, thankful for getting their lives back. But I looked around, afterward, and didn’t see any of that either.

It hit me about eight hours later. Hard. And I’m not talking about side effects. (I developed a slight fever and a headache, but I have a headache every single day from staring at a small laptop screen.)

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The significance hit me as I looked at the COVID-19 data we receive from the Carroll County Health Department each weekday afternoon. Three dead from COVID-19 and 100 new cases reported Monday.

Three county residents, gone. To be missed by family, friends, neighbors, maybe long before their time. And another 100 members of our community, positive for the virus, probably scared, wondering how bad it will get, who they may have passed it on to, what happens next.

All because none of the three, or the 100, had been able to get the vaccination in time to prevent catching COVID-19. The vaccine I received that morning.

That’s when I started to feel some emotions. I felt guilty. I felt lucky. I felt grateful.

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And I felt angry.

I got mad at all the people out there who are passing on the opportunity to get vaccinated. The vaccination that could’ve saved those three lives, the lives of 235 Carroll countians, more than 8,000 Marylanders, more than 550,000 Americans, nearly 3 million fellow human beings who’ve died of COVID-19.

A Facebook friend got vaccinated at just about the same time I did and posted about it online, writing they would not pass judgment on anyone who decided against getting the shot.

I have no problem whatsoever passing judgment on anyone making the active decision not to get vaccinated. Unless you are one of the extremely rare individuals who has been told by a doctor not to get it, you’re a fool. And a selfish one at that.

Going under the assumption that most of the 20-25% of U.S. citizens who aren’t planning to be vaccinated don’t really believe Bill Gates has put a tracking chip in every dose, I can only assume they are perfectly fine with the way things are. The masks. The isolation. The businesses struggling. The fear. The death. Either that or they’re taking a wrongheaded political stand.

Or, for some, it’s misinformation.

A family member recounted a story from a high school class last week, when students were talking about whether they would get the vaccination if it was available. When one said no, the follow-up question was, “why?” The student’s answer? Because more people have died from the vaccine than from the virus.

Seriously. That was the (extremely incorrect, no basis in reality, wrong) answer. And much as I’d like to blame that misinformed response on social media, I’m guessing it came from closer to home.

The vaccine isn’t killing people, the virus is. In fact, the truth is, the vaccine is not just our best chance to get back to normalcy. It’s our only chance.

Thirteen months into this pandemic, COVID-19 is still raging. We’re seeing more than 60,000 cases a day in this country, which is far more than we were seeing last spring or summer or fall. (They’re seeing double that number in India, where they declared victory over the virus a few months ago, stopped wearing masks and resumed gatherings.)

In Carroll County, the number of cases has gone up five weeks in a row. Numbers are increasing in every age group except one: people who are 65 and over.

Not coincidentally, that age group is the one that’s gotten the vast majority of the vaccinations to this point. For the first time, the oldest among us are seeing the fewest cases, according to the health department.

Case numbers in the other age groups will only start to drop significantly when the rate of vaccinations increases substantially. We will never be able to feel normal again until most of us are vaccinated.

I did my part.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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