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As the world totters toward recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery is not coming along equally. There is only one way out of this crisis; vaccinations.

As of Friday, 108,926,627 Americans have been fully vaccinated, or 33.2 percent of the population. More than 149 million Americans have had at least one dose.

Who would think that life-saving vaccines would become a point of contention?

That we are not out of the woods on COVID is a reality. While large sections of the U.S. are bounding toward reopening, other areas, such as Oregon, are extending some strict public health orders. Colorado is seeing hospitalizations stall out at far-too-high numbers, and those being diagnosed now are on average, ten years younger than during earlier high rates.

India, which only two months ago thought it was a COVID miracle, is now a heartbreaking public health disaster. Two virulent forms of COVID mutations are fueling astronomical cases of COVID: more than 414,000 cases were diagnosed just today. They are a country that in better times produces our vaccines, now crying out for help.

Most countries with nowhere near the resources of the U.S. are only beginning to vaccinate. The poorest can’t afford vaccines, let alone the mitigating, life-saving therapies that were eagerly promoted by former president Trump when he was diagnosed.

Yet in this country, vaccines are going unused. COVID-19 vaccination rates are dropping.  People are flaunting the public health orders and ignoring the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) when it says that to remain free of this scourge this summer and in the foreseeable future, we need to reach “herd immunity”.

Herd immunity is defined as “resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within a population that is based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals as a result of previous infection or vaccination. The level of vaccination needed to achieve herd immunity varies by disease but is said to range from 83 to 94 percent.”

Two days ago The New York Times asked this question: “What if we can’t reach herd immunity?

It is estimated that one-third of Americans, mostly conservative and white and middle-America – say they refuse to get the vaccine.

It is time for us to admit what many public health officials say privately. This is not the politically correct wording being used in communities of color and poor neighborhoods where they have reason to doubt public officials — explained tactfully as “vaccine hesitancy”.

This isn’t even the well-entrenched anti-vaccine movement — as strong as it is and as based in fallacies as it continues to be.

The latest survey of Republican men reveals that 50 percent of them say they aren’t going to get a vaccine. “You can’t make me,” seems to be the cry. This is not a vaccine objection, this is a political objection.

It is time to call this what it is. This is vaccine hostility.

This is not some far-away attitude. This vaccine hostility is in our own county. Locally, Buena Vista Mayor Duff Lacy has more than once brought up the topic on the county’s COVID Leadership Roundtable, saying “I know plenty of folks who say they’re just not going to get it. You can’t make them.”

But at the same time, Lacy has represented a sentiment of some elements of this community that those folks think it’s just time to open up. Clearly in the short term — the tourists are already arriving. But long-term — how safe are we if we don’t reach herd immunity? What are the long-term impacts on our economy if we can’t be done with this thing once and for all?

The U.S. — we the taxpayers — spent more than $9 billion dollars developing the COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccines were first developed on Trump’s watch. I want my money’s worth. I want to look out across this county — and across this country and know that I made a good economic investment in our future — that all of us are, in fact, in this together.

Well then — I’ll be darned if I’ll take this ‘you can’t make me’ horse manure. This isn’t the right-screaming mantra of freedom — this is the hard-core deep responsibility that comes with democracy. This is a return on our financial investment; that ROI — is our public safety.

Readers:  look to the right of this Our Voice at the COVID thermometer. Chaffee County stands at 53.3 percent. Our goal is 75 percent of all adults vaccinated by July 1.  Can we make the goal?