|This graph shows vaccination percentages by age group, as reported on the Georgia Department of Public Health vaccine dashboard.
The high vaccination percentages among older Georgians is impressive. We prioritized this group in the vaccine rollout because they're most likely to have severe illness, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 infection.
But these aren't the people driving transmission rates in our state. The highest number of cases in Georgia have not been in our older folks, but individuals age 18-29, followed by the 30-39-year-old crowd.
If you fall into those age ranges, you may be thinking vaccination isn't important for you because you're less likely to get really sick. That doesn't mean it can't happen though. In Georgia, more than 370 people age 18-39 have died from COVID-19, and more than 8,600 have been hospitalized with the illness.
But even if you're young, strapping, and healthy, consider this - when you get the COVID-19 vaccine, you add one more layer of protection for yourself, your family members, your friends, your coworkers, and your community.
Building protection against COVID-19 is like a group project in school - everyone on the team has to do his or her part for the project to succeed. The only way our community can truly dig out from this pandemic is if we achieve population immunity, and the best, safest, fastest way to do this is through population vaccination.
That means all of us, not just those at higher risk.
If you're infected, even if you're not really sick, you're exposing those around you to the virus. Even if those around you are vaccinated, no vaccine is bulletproof, so they may still catch the virus from you. The more of us who are vaccinated though, the less likely the virus will successfully keep spreading.
COVID-19 vaccines have been studied in clinical trials with large and diverse groups of people, of various ages, races and ethnicities. Time and again the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective - certainly much safer and more effective than getting the virus without vaccine protection.
Remember smallpox and polio? Unless you're in that older demographic, these aren't illnesses you've had to fear during your lifetime. You have vaccines to thank for this. Now it's our turn to help eliminate a terrible disease through vaccination.
We can do this, but we all need to do our part.