I saw an old friend before Christmas who asked if I’ll take the COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available.

“Absolutely,” I said.

She, on the other hand, vowed never to be vaccinated, citing aversion to having a foreign substance injected into her body.

“But you could die if you don’t take it,” I pleaded.

I was immediately reminded of a discussion my mother had long ago with a woman who was against vaccinating her children for measles and other diseases.

A registered nurse, my mother was a staunch proponent of vaccinations.

Of course, having been educated in such matters, she knew the consequences of not doing so.

I think of my mother often now, as COVID-19 spirals out of control and hundreds of thousands of people have died.

I am particularly struck when I see doctors and nurses on the nightly national news, pleading with people to wear masks, social distance and stay home as they are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

More than feeling sympathy for those hard-working professionals, I feel angry that as they scramble to save lives, people continue to travel and eschew health and safety protocols.

One poor nurse spoke to the camera, saying they will find places to put sick people, including in hospital hallways, conference rooms and gift shops, but those are not the optimal spots to be in when you have COVID-19.

How can we be so dismissive of those who give up their lives to save ours?

Day in and out, they work in COVID-infected wards, tending to the sick and holding the hands of those who would otherwise die alone.

What kind of people are we who listen as doctors and nurses plead with us not to travel — and then turn around and book a flight? Or have a family gathering of those with whom we do not live?

Cruel is the word that comes to mind. We are a cruel society, I guess.

People who are well-educated and otherwise kind dismiss the severity of the pandemic, a view that both confuses and terrifies me.

How do they not get it?

Even if convinced they will not contract the virus themselves, how can they dismiss or ridicule others for being cautious?

Those of us who read and watch the news have reason to be paranoid as we see hospitals packed beyond capacity and health care workers burning out, both physically and emotionally, and many dying.

Where is our empathy for them? Our respect?

I don’t think there’s a bonus large enough or a vacation long enough to repay them after this is over.

It is within our power to ease their load by simply wearing masks, social distancing and staying home.

So simple, yet so elusive.

Though I naturally wish my parents were still alive, I’m glad they are not here to see this. I’m especially thankful my mother did not have to work in the pandemic.

Doctors, nurses and other hospital employees work hard in normal times to treat, nurture and comfort sick people. It is unconscionable that we contribute to making their jobs harder in a pandemic.

The least we can do is educate ourselves about the the importance of being vaccinated.

After all the work done to develop and distribute vaccines, it would be tragic if not enough of us get vaccinated to curb the virus.

We have the power to help turn things around. All it takes is a simple, quick, pin prick to the arm.

To those who don’t believe it’ll save their own lives, please do it for those of us who do.

I can’t wait to get vaccinated. And when I do, I’ll celebrate.

With bells on, and a hallelujah.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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