[OPINION] Choosing not to be vaccinated puts others at risk

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health arranges for Covid-19 Vaccine doses that are unused at the end of the day to be sent to a ‘midnight pod’ where registered nurses get them into the arms of those who need it the most, February 10, 2021. | Photo by Los Angeles County

Despite California’s progress against COVID-19, we’re not out of the woods yet – too many folks in our communities remain unvaccinated, putting themselves and others who can’t get the vaccine at risk. Now, we’re facing the more contagious Delta variant. It’s more important than ever to get vaccinated – it’s how we end this pandemic.

These safe and highly effective vaccines provide excellent protection from severe illness, hospitalization and death, including from the Delta and other known variants. With 80 percent of eligible Californians having received at least one dose, our work continues to close the gap of those who remain unvaccinated.

We are seeing hundreds of unvaccinated people being admitted to ICUs, and unfortunately, some may never leave those hospitals. The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in California have occurred in unvaccinated people. As case rates, hospitalization rates and death rates increase, our efforts to reach the most impacted communities will continue.

This situation is very real. California is at a critical point with the Delta variant. It is extremely contagious – over 60 percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain – and has become the dominant strain circulating in the state. The risk for exposure and infection from COVID-19 and its variants will remain until more people get vaccinated. We need to follow the science and finish the job to end this pandemic now.

Unfortunately, many of our most vulnerable communities where we are seeing low vaccination rates are targets of disinformation campaigns, which continue to put lives at risk, including our youngest children who are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Working with ethnic media, faith-based and community-based organizations, and many unique partners who are trusted messengers has been crucial to dispelling some of the most prevalent myths out there. It’s time to fully embrace the facts that prove vaccines work, are safe, and are free – regardless of immigration status.

There is some good news. As we work with communities to share information on vaccine safety and efficacy, an increasing number of Californians are choosing to get vaccinated. We’re continuing to work closely with employers to make the free vaccines more accessible to their employees, opening pop-up clinics at workplaces and providing information on COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, which may be used for a vaccine appointment or if someone cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related side effects. We cannot and will not let up. Our vaccine outreach will continue as our priority remains to make our communities safer, grow our economy and ensure our kids can thrive.

Our work to increase vaccination rates in communities hit hardest by COVID-19 is matched by our commitment to help Californians make ends meet and provide for their families. By going to covid19.ca.gov or calling the COVID-19 hotline, 833-422-4255, you can find information in-language about programs like rent relief and eviction protection. In addition, the Golden State Stimulus can put money in the pockets of families making $75,000 or less. These resources are in place for all Californians who need them, regardless of immigration status, and together vaccines can help keep our communities safe and healthy.

Every Californian needs to know how critical it is that they get vaccinated – for their health, the health of their family, and the health of California as a whole. We are counting on those not yet vaccinated to make the right decision. And soon. Together, we can end this pandemic.

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Gavin Newsom is the Governor of California, formerly Lieutenant Governor of California and Mayor of San Francisco.

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