We are incredibly blessed to live in the United States.

This country allows us to create the lives that we want to live. We can start a family, start a new business and even start a new life because we have access to a limitless amount of resources, as well as medical, scientific and technological advancements that aren’t accessible in other countries around the world. As Americans, we cannot lose sight of the privileges that we have in this country, but those privileges come with an important responsibility that we cannot and should not take lightly, especially during this pandemic.

For more than a year, we have been plagued by a virus that has already led to the deaths of more than 600,000 Americans, which includes more than 7,000 Kentuckians and more than 300 Eastern Kentuckians. Along with the unimaginable loss of life, COVID-19 has also impacted many of us mentally and emotionally, as well as financially from the restrictions that were placed on businesses and restaurants state- and nationwide.

We are not out of the woods yet with this virus, though, because a mutated variant of COVID-19 — the Delta variant — now threatens our communities. It spreads much faster than the original strain of the virus and it results in much more severe illness and poorer outcomes. Unvaccinated people of all ages, as well as children younger than 11 years old who are not eligible for any vaccinations yet, are now considered the most at risk of this new variant. That’s why we should not take this threat lightly.

Luckily, we have the necessary tools to protect ourselves and defeat this virus, but we must take it upon ourselves to do the right thing and make the right decisions so that our children do not have to bear the brunt of this variant.

In the United States, we have access to three different COVID-19 vaccines: The two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the two-dose Moderna vaccine and the single-dose Johnson&Johnson vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective against COVID-19 when both doses are administered, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1 percent effective when both doses are administered and the Johnson&Johnson vaccine is 85 percent effective. The fact that we, as Americans, have three available options of COVID-19 vaccines, which are free for all eligible people to receive, is truly a blessing and a privilege that we cannot continue to ignore.

Millions of people are currently suffering from this virus and its variants throughout many underprivileged regions of the world, including Central America, South America, Africa and the Middle East, among others. If we do not recognize the privilege that we have, as Americans, with these free vaccines and if we do not take our responsibility seriously to get vaccinated, then it is an insult to everyone throughout the rest of the world who is currently praying and waiting for a vaccine right now.

For someone to spread misinformation about the vaccine and to turn their backs on their responsibility to protect themselves and their communities, it demonstrates a deep sense of entitlement that should not be revered or celebrated.

Unlike most medicines, which treat or cure diseases, vaccines prevent them, which is why they are powerful tools that we must take advantage of in our country. Vaccines help prevent a multitude of serious illnesses, which have notoriously caused serious illness and even death in the past, including polio, smallpox and the seasonal flu. With the smallpox and polio vaccines, in particular, we have been able to completely eliminate those viruses from the world. That is a significantly positive contribution to society that should not be ignored and cannot be overstated. Vaccines help break the chain of transmission as a virus spreads within a community, which helps to limit its spread in a community while protecting the vulnerable and most-at-risk populations, according to the CDC and the World Health Organization.

It’s important to remember, though, that people must actually receive the vaccine for it to make any difference. That’s where we, as Americans, have a responsibility to do our part in fighting this virus. We cannot refuse to listen to local, state and national medical experts and turn our noses up to priceless scientific achievements that have already been proven to be effective in protecting us.

We must recognize the cruel irony of this entitlement: The very adults who refuse to listen to local, state and national medical experts, who turn their noses on the medical miracles that we are blessed to have accessible to us, and who refuse to do their part in protecting their communities are the same adults who have consistently complained about wanting to reopen and lift all COVID-19 guidelines.

The truth is that if everyone would make the right choice to get vaccinated, then the restrictions would be permanently lifted. It is a fact that the vaccine is our best defense against this virus, and we must all make the choice to receive it.

All Kentuckians who are 12 years old and older can receive the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and all Kentuckians 16 years old and older can receive the two-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the single-dose Johnson&Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. No vaccines have been approved for children between 5 and 12 years old in the U.S. yet. To see all vaccination sites and free transportation options to and from vaccination appointments, visit, vaccine.ky.gov, or call the state’s official COVID-19 hotline, (800)722-5725.