Guest Viewpoint

History books are filled with people accomplishing what once was believed impossible.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy challenged us to reach the moon by the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took “one giant leap for mankind.”

Today, we stand similarly on the brink of a historic breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. Unsung heroes in the scientific, academic and medical communities have developed safe and effective vaccines. The collective effort is unprecedented.

However, the war to end this pandemic, which has claimed well over half a million lives in this country alone, is not over. One missing link remains: you.

Without you, millions of research hours could ultimately be wasted. It would be like stopping the moon quest with just an orbit—wave as you go by because we’ve decided not to get out and walk around.

We need to finish what we started and ensure that all of us can enjoy healthier lives and a return to normalcy.

COVID-19 has taken so much from so many. The last year has been hard—untold deaths, disrupted families, uncelebrated milestones and holidays, isolation from family members, community lockdowns and a battered economy.

You can help end the suffering.

You, your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and everyone you don’t know—all of us—can help by getting vaccinated. If you’re uncertain, it’s understandable. But, accepting a new vaccine to stop the spread of deadly disease is something that we as a society have done before. And, it’s paid off.

Through the first half of the 20th century, we battled polio. Most of those affected were children. Public places were shut down; hospital wards were filled with patients using “iron lungs”; and afflicted youngsters struggled with leg braces and crutches. Thankfully, research produced a vaccine that virtually eradicated polio.

Ending polio was a national campaign. A lot of pride and patriotism went into protecting one another. We did it together—standing up as one for our children to end the death and suffering.

Now, we find ourselves in an even greater fight.

Many of those most at risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19 are among those who stepped up to be vaccinated against polio. They did their part to secure a healthier existence for the generations that followed.

We urge you to educate yourself about the risks and benefits of the vaccines. Make an informed decision. Talk to your primary care provider. Review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research and the safety evidence of thousands of vaccinations given in clinical trials and many millions given since.

Vaccination of most of us is our best shot to get us back to the things we love—hugging family, enjoying friends, growing our businesses, and attending big events and worship services.

This is the moonshot moment of our generation. However, this time, we aren’t being asked to watch in awe. This time, all of us are called to be the heroes—for ourselves, our parents, our children and our future.

Let’s take this giant leap for mankind together.

Editor’s note: Stephen Hippler is chief clinical officer of OSF HealthCare, and William Walsh is chief medical officer of OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center.