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By Dr. Tony Kireopoulos

The new CDC guidelines for wearing masks reflect the good news in the war against Covid-19, namely that vaccines are paving the way back to normal life.  The fact that the fully vaccinated can by and large stop wearing masks in outdoor and most indoor settings is indeed a welcome development.  Perhaps, as some have argued, it was premature to issue these guidelines, given the many scientific and social variables related to this virus and our responses to it.  Still, the prospect of normality seems to be a strong incentive for people to continue getting the vaccines.

But one other incentive should be enough:  the health and well-being of one another.  The more of us who get vaccines and thus acquire immunity, the safer we all are.  And it is this incentive that many among us rely on the most.  Indeed, cancer patients and others, whose illnesses and/or treatments have left them with compromised immune systems, still depend on the good graces of others.   In short, their reduced cell counts don’t allow vaccines to mount a response, and therefore the new vaccines don’t offer the same relief they offer to most everyone else.  There are thousands and thousands of people, most of whom would love to get a vaccine and be relatively worry-free, who are in this situation.  Some have even gotten a vaccine only to learn afterward that it didn’t take.

And so, like before the vaccines became widely available, many relatives, friends, and neighbors still have to take all the earlier precautions not to be exposed to the virus, namely wearing masks, physical distancing, and washing hands.  Luckily for most of them, it has worked so far, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue to work.  But they’re also probably steeling themselves for the stares of others, who will wonder why they apparently aren’t following the guidelines, and why they’re not following the crowd.    

At the same time, there is one other thing they must do, along with everyone else, and that is to trust that everyone else will do the right thing.  This will be difficult, as there is no guarantee that all the mask-less people with whom we come into contact every day will have had their vaccines.  Still, until we reach herd immunity, what choice do we all have? 

As more and more people get vaccinated, everyone is less and less vulnerable to the disease.  So my plea is that as many people who can do so get a vaccine – not just your life, but the lives of countless others, may depend on it. 

Dr. Kireopoulos is Associate General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

About this blog: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the original author and were prepared in the author’s personal capacity. These views and opinions do not represent those of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, its member communions, or any other contributors to this site.