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Editorial | Island Voices

Column: COVID decisions now will change future, for better or worse

  • Adam T. Kahualaulani Mick lives on Maui and works for a Hana nonprofit serving youth and community.

    Adam T. Kahualaulani Mick lives on Maui and works for a Hana nonprofit serving youth and community.

A recent article, reporting one projection that Hawaii’s daily COVID-19 cases are forecast to peak at 3,700 in October, gave me pause.

Please consider the implications of having 3,700 cases a day. Even with our current numbers, some Hawaii hospitals are in crisis. With 3,700, our health-care system could collapse. Consider how such numbers would affect every facet of our society and life. Indeed, if you haven’t yet known someone who has been severely ill or died from coronavirus, the odds are that you will.

Sobering, isn’t it?

However, this forecast is like a message from the future, telling us that “it doesn’t have to be this way.” So, what can we do?

Personally, I chose to get vaccinated.

It has become clear to me that humanity can certainly slow down and contain the virus with lockdowns, masks and distancing, but it seems unlikely that we will get it under control without vaccinations. The moment we relax restrictions or stop taking personal responsibility, the numbers go right back up. Plus, the longer the pandemic goes on, the more variants appear.

So, vaccinations look like the only way forward and it’s important that I do my part to help. I don’t feel right letting other people get vaccinated and just waiting around for herd immunity to happen. This is a current crisis in our world, and I want to step up to help the situation — to help create that herd immunity. Indeed, it has come to feel like an ethical responsibility.

I felt proud to get vaccinated — to make this (mostly) selfless choice for the good of our world, to “take one for the team.” I never served in the military, but just for a moment, I got a sense of what it feels like to do something meant to protect one’s home, family, friends and fellow citizens.

Are there risks? Yes. But with more than 367 million U.S. doses, more than 5 billion doses across 183 countries, and the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history, the vaccines appear safe and effective. Indeed, the Pfizer vaccine was just granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Could there be long-term risks? Perhaps. But aren’t those just “risks” of life itself? According to Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee: “If you look historically at severe vaccine safety problems, they have occurred about six weeks after getting a dose. … I know of no precedent of a long-term effect that comes up five or 10 years later.”

I read about a Hawaii man who got coronavirus three times, lost both parents and an uncle, and still won’t get vaccinated because, he said, “I don’t know enough about these vaccines to get vaccinated.” Have we really done so poor a job giving people reliable information so they can make an informed choice, rather than a social-media-informed choice? I support everyone’s right to choose, but please do your homework, and obtain your information from reliable sources.

Finally, although I feel grateful for the vaccines’ potential to help end the pandemic, humanity is still right on the edge, and Nature could take us out in the blink of an eye. All it would require is a variant that doesn’t respond to masks, distancing or vaccines; one that spreads even easier; or one that targets our children (God forbid).

More than 4.5 million people have died (some 653,840 in the U.S.), and 15% of all new cases are now children. So, please consider getting vaccinated, while continuing to wear your mask and distance. Remember: We can change the future with our decisions. Small choices make a big difference.

Adam T. Kahualaulani Mick lives on Maui and works for a Hana nonprofit serving youth and community.

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