On July 4, celebrate — but get vaccinated first

The nation is falling short of President Biden’s vaccination goal, just as a more contagious strain of the virus is spreading. There is no room for “vaccine hesitancy.”

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At this pop-up vaccination clinic in West Englewood’s It’s Official Barbershop, customers who got the COVID-19 vaccine were offered a free haircut and two tickets to Great America amusement park.

At this pop-up vaccination clinic at It’s Official Barbershop in West Englewood, customers who got the COVID-19 vaccine were offered a free haircut and two tickets to Great America amusement park.

Scott Olson/Getty

This year’s Fourth of July is likely to be all the more celebratory for so many now-vaccinated Americans, who will once again mark the holiday with family cookouts and beach-going with friends and fireworks.

And millions of us, having gotten our shots, are more than ready to mark an official summer “reopening.”

All the same, and not to sound like a scold, but we had better remember: There’s still plenty of work ahead to put the pandemic fully behind us.

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The threat of COVID-19 continues to loom large. Pockets of Chicago, Downstate Illinois and the rest of the nation are struggling to get everyone vaccinated. Add to that the growing spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has been identified in dozens of countries and already accounts for some 20% of newly reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

By fall, the Delta variant could cause the same surge in cases that other nations are experiencing. We dare not risk that scenario, especially with some research suggesting that the Delta variant also causes more severe illness.

Getting vaccinated is now all the more critical. The vaccines, experts have said, are effective against coronavirus variants, and the vast majority of new COVID-19 infections are among the unvaccinated.

Everyone who is medically able to get the shot must do so, for their own and everyone else’s health and safety.

Numbers sound the alarm

Gov. J.B. Pritzker made much the same point on Monday when he urged unvaccinated Illinoisans to get their shots and to heed warnings about the new Delta variant.

“This is very real,” he said, with great understatement.

“The lessons here at home and across the world are a harbinger of what could happen here, particularly in low vaccinated areas,” the governor said, “if we don’t see a higher uptake of the vaccine across Illinois.”

“Higher uptake” is needed in a number of states, particularly in the South and Midwest. Pockets of the country where folks either have less access to shots — or stubbornly refuse to get them — already have forced the White House to concede that America will fall short of President Joe Biden’s initial goal: To get 70% of the adult population vaccinated with at least their first dose by July 4.

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In Illinois overall, 71.6% of adults have gotten at least one shot and 56.3% are fully vaccinated, according to state Department of Health data. But consider the situation in Southern Illinois, where a number of counties have vaccination rates hovering at 20% to 35%. In Alexander County on the Mississippi River, just 14.4% of adults have been fully vaccinated.

Chicago is lagging behind too. Here, just 49.5% of adults are fully vaccinated and 55.7% having gotten their first shot, city Department of Health data show. The racial disparity remains stark, with just 33.1% of African Americans and 40.4% of Latinos now fully vaccinated. In some ZIP codes on the South and West sides, only about a third of residents have been fully vaccinated.

Get your shot before celebrating the Fourth.

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