2017-05-LG-Nerwinski

Lawrence Township municipal manager Kevin Nerwinski.

As I write this article, our community has had 2028 positive COVID-19 cases (not positive tests) and 90 deaths.

Kevin Nerwinski: The Whitehead Road roundabout

Kevin Nerwinski.

In the U.S., we have had 29.4 million cases and have endured 539,000 deaths, and worldwide there have been 121 million cases and 2.7 million deaths. These numbers continue to grow daily, both globally and locally.

I reject any argument that attempts to diminish the loss of human life with claims that most are elderly or had pre-existing conditions.

These are human beings with family and friends that mourn them deeply. To be marginalized for any reason is wrong, and to believe that the virus can’t infect you or a loved one, regardless of age, is foolish.

We can now fight this virus with more than just social distancing, mask-wearing and keeping our hands clean and away from our faces. Science has delivered to us vaccines that have proven to be effective in saving lives. We are well into delivering these vaccines into the arms of as many people as the current inventory allows.

Public health officials estimate that vaccines will be available to all from the age of 16 and older by mid-year if we continue in our present course. The challenge then turns to convince a mistrusting portion of the public to vaccinate.

This past Sunday, I was watching a news conference where a public health official was asked the following question, “What should be done now to convince the American public to receive this vaccine?” He answered, “We need a concerted effort by local officials in communities across the country to work to get as many people as possible vaccinated because they enjoy more personal connections with their citizens than state and federal officials.”

As I let this statement sink in, I began to think to myself that this “ask” is much bigger and more personal than the “ask” to advocate for all to “mask-up, wash your hands throughout the day, and keep a safe, social distance.”

Personally, it makes me uncomfortable to advocate for others to get vaccinated. I don’t have the education, knowledge, or scientific background to be qualified enough (for me) to advocate for other people to inject the vaccine into their bodies.

But, I am comfortable sharing with you why I chose to get vaccinated (I still have one to go in a week) and why I thought my wife (now vaccinated) and children (when eligible) should get it done too.

First, to be clear, my thinking is devoid of any political agenda whatsoever. I have said from the first time I publicly commented on this pandemic, and every time since, political viewpoints and blind loyalties have absolutely no place of value in the fight against a world pandemic, a public health crisis like we have not experienced in the past 100 years. None.

And with the latest polling showing that a disproportionate and significant percentage of people from one political party opting not to get the vaccine over people of the other political party is equally mind-numbing and mind-boggling.

Former President Donald Trump and his wife were vaccinated in January and have since publicly encouraged others to vaccinate. President Biden and his wife were vaccinated and joined in the effort to convince the public to follow. If the leaders of opposing political parties decided on vaccination, I don’t understand why political affiliation is still a factor now. Politics and Pandemic? Far from “Perfect Together.”

I also have done a deep dive into the history of the science behind the vaccine to understand better how the vaccine was created and how it works. I was encouraged to discover that the actual “race” to find this vaccine started more than 15 years ago with leading scientists from world-class pharmaceutical companies and research institutes working to fight various novel coronaviruses leading up to the one we fight now.

In fact, the vaccines we are delivering today were almost wholly developed before the first case of the virus was discovered in the U.S. early last year. With science so far along already in the vaccine research and development, and add the full force of our federal government, the teamwork between experienced and committed public health officials and top scientists, and add $9,000,000,000 used for human trials over the following nine months, I have more confidence in the vaccine than if I just looked from afar and marveled at the time-frame between March 2020 and December 2020 without knowing more.

This, coupled with how the vaccine works within the body (too long for me to describe here, but the Mayo Clinic website offers excellent information. Go to mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-vaccine/art-20484859) convinced me to trust the science behind the vaccine.

We all can acknowledge the incredible discoveries and inventions the human race has made throughout history—in engineering, science, and technology. This vaccine lines up well with other tremendous feats of humankind.

So, I believe in the vaccine’s science, and I think it necessary to stop the spread of this deadly virus. If the current polling holds and a significant number of people choose not to vaccinate, establishing immunity will be delayed for years, and the virus and all the destruction it causes will continue.

My decision to be vaccinated was not based on protecting myself. As with wearing a mask and social distancing, it was done (and is still being done) to protect others and do my part (taking personal responsibility for the public good) to stop the spread.

I want us to re-open as quickly as possible, but I also want it to be done safely—valuing every life, regardless of age– equally. The best way that I felt I could help now was to be vaccinated.