It’s been difficult to find sustained joy during this bleak year, so it’s OK to feel a twinge of relief this week as the coronavirus vaccine begins to slowly make its way through our beleaguered society.

The vaccine itself is a marvel of modern science, purported to provide recipients a high level of protection — 90% or more — from COVID-19, the disease that stems from infection by the novel coronavirus first detected a year ago in China. Pfizer was first to gain FDA approval for its vaccine last weekend, and Moderna’s should be on the market soon as well. Others remain under development or in testing.

Historically, creation of vaccines to bring immunity from serious diseases to humans have been a long and painstaking process. It has been known to take years to deliver a viable vaccine to the public. Having the COVID-19 vaccine approved and put into use in just 10 months is a spectacular scientific and medical achievement.

With doses of vaccine now being delivered around the country, the important next step is turning vaccines into vaccinations. That won’t be easy. A large segment of the population is eager to be vaccinated. But public opinion surveys indicate more than 30% of people are reluctant or taking a wait-and-see approach. Some even say they will never take the vaccine.

The challenge for public health officials and political leaders is to instill confidence in the public that the vaccine is safe. There must also be a widespread understanding among people that knocking down the disease is crucial to economic recovery and the restoration of community businesses and institutions.

Public health officials say it will take several months for the vaccine to be widely available across the state and nation. Frontline medical staff and essential workers are first in line, followed by vulnerable populations.

When it does arrive, we urge people to step forward and participate when their time comes. The little shot in the arm you receive will help provide a huge shot in the arm for our businesses and communities. Help yourselves, your families and everyone around you. This is the first and most important step toward recovery from an unrelenting virus.

The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute

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