On Monday, the FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine for individuals ages 16 and older. The approval was granted to the Pfizer vaccine. For many Americans, this was seen as a major step forward. For those wearing masks, social distancing and patiently waiting for everyone else to do the same, finally having a safe, accessible vaccine seems like the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. However, it can never be that simple.

For months, a large portion of the population refused to get the vaccine because it wasn’t FDA approved, and that’s fair. Understandably, many people would feel uncomfortable with the idea of a new vaccination being mass administered throughout the country. However, despite the new FDA approval on the Pfizer vaccine, there is still an alarming amount of people not only refusing to get the vaccine but discouraging others from getting it by spreading disinformation on social media.

The newest argument in the anti-vaccination community is that “forced” vaccinations are an obstruction of our American freedoms. Now, we could get into the details here, like how the Constitution doesn’t mention vaccines or medical liberties, but that’s not really the point. The point is that no government official is forcing you to get the vaccine. At least, not now. Governor DeWine isn’t going to hold you down and force you to get vaccinated. We all still maintain the freedom to choose to get it or not. 

Freedom to choose, however, doesn’t equate to freedom from consequences. The fact of the matter is that businesses are privately owned. Schools can make their own rules for students and staff. State legislatures can create and change mandates for their citizens. So, no, you don’t have to get the COVID-19 vaccine, in the sense that you don’t have to do anything. But, just like any other choice we make, there are some consequences. Exercising your “freedom” not to get vaccinated could mean sacrificing other things, like shopping, working, going to school, traveling and more. 

Mandatory vaccinations are not a crazy, dystopian concept that many people believe. Ohio already has several vaccines required for children to attend school. That rule has been around for years. Because COVID-19 has become such a partisan issue in this country, this vaccine is different. You don’t hear anyone protesting the required chickenpox vaccination. Why? Because everybody knows that chickenpox exists, that it sucks, and that they don’t want their child to get it from another kid whose parents refused to vaccinate them. Based on everything scientists and doctors have proven about the COVID-19 vaccine, this one shouldn’t be any different.

There are, of course, always exceptions. Those with certain medical conditions and allergies are unable to get the vaccine. There’s no way around that. So those people who physically can’t get vaccinated have to stay distanced, wear masks and live in fear of COVID-19 until those of us who can get the vaccine finally do it. Nobody walks into CVS, Walgreens or Kroger and gets vaccinated because it sounds fun. We get vaccinated for the benefit of ourselves and all those around us. Until we start seeing COVID-19 as a problem that we all need to solve, I don’t think the pandemic will ever end.