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OPINION

To my fellow Republican men: Get the COVID vaccine

Some of them claim the vaccine came out too fast. Yet it was President Trump who initiated Operation Warp Speed to produce a vaccine as quickly as possible.

A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Governor Jim Justice, 69, of West Virginia on Dec. 14, in Charleston. Officials said they want to demonstrate their confidence in the vaccine.
A nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Governor Jim Justice, 69, of West Virginia on Dec. 14, in Charleston. Officials said they want to demonstrate their confidence in the vaccine.Associated Press

COVID-19 can be debilitating. I know. I had it in December after attending a mostly maskless party at the White House. There were nights when I didn’t want to go to sleep for fear I wouldn’t wake up. But after two trips to the hospital and six weeks rest after that, I recovered. Mostly. Fatigue is still an issue; two-hour naps in the afternoon are now the norm. I’ve yet to walk a lap around the block without wheezing.

But I’m among the lucky. I survived. While about 537,000 Americans haven’t. And the body count continues. When will it end?

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When everyone in the country is vaccinated. It’s not complicated. Get the vaccine and you won’t get COVID. That’s it.

The problem is that far too many won’t even do that.

And for some inexplicable reason, they tend to come from the Republican wing. Middle-age Republican guys like me. Nearly half say they won’t get vaccinated. Go figure.

The claim among some is that the vaccine came out too fast. Yet it was Donald Trump who initiated Operation Warp Speed to come up with a vaccine as quickly as possible and distribute it as widely as possible. Had he been president now he would have been pushing for everyone to be vaccinated. So mistrusting the vaccine doesn’t make sense.

Yet because President Biden is now advocating vaccination, some will do the opposite, out of defiance, out of spite. It’s irrational, even mind-boggling. And in some cases, it will be fatal. It’s a wonder if a vaccine for cancer were announced, would these same COVID vaccine doubters scoff at it too?

The libertarian mind-set is a barricade against the government’s urging Americans to get the vaccine. It’s anathema to libertarians’ rugged individualist persona. Luckily even they got the measles and diphtheria vaccines as infants. Their kids too. Had that been left as an option into adulthood, their refusal would have brought on an epidemic. Vaccine hesitancy is largely to blame for the 2019 US measles outbreak, when 1,282 cases were reported, the highest number since the disease was largely eradicated in America.

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Polio was a scourge of the first half of the 20th century. People were desperate for a vaccine to protect their children from paralysis and even death. Then one day Dr. Jonas Salk uttered three profound words: “The vaccine works.” And nearly everyone got vaccinated over time. Today it’s routine.

Perhaps the COVID vaccine will eventually be routine. If the coronavirus continues to present a threat, it should be. But in the meantime, adults will have to do the adult thing and get vaccinated. If not for themselves, then for the others they could infect if they themselves contract the virus — like I did to four family members last December.

I’m supposed to be immune for three months after getting over COVID. That grace period is nearing its end. Before I reach it, I plan to be vaccinated. As early as this week, in fact.

I never thought I’d get COVID-19, of course. But I did. Arrogance and carelessness took over. I failed to heed the simplest of precautions, such as wearing a mask and socially distancing. And I paid the price, as did my family. I don’t ever want to go through COVID again. I was lucky the first time. So too was my family.

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But luck never lasts. And at this point I’m not about to gamble (again) with my life or my family’s lives. I’m getting the COVID vaccine, and I won’t hesitate to twist the arms of my conservative middle-age brethren to do the same.

Will they listen? Maybe. Will I annoy them? Definitely. But enduring their sneering is trivial compared with the alternative of watching them repeat my COVID ordeal — one from which they may not recover.

Tom Mountain is vice chair of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee.