Murray | Photo provided

The past 15 months have been difficult for our state, our country and our world. Many people tragically lost their lives, tensions flared and we all had to adapt to a new normal marked by virtual and remote interactions with other people and physical separation from friends, classmates and co-workers. The long-term damage caused by these 15 months physically, financially, mentally and politically remains to be seen as we open back up and return to normal.

This return to normalcy is only possible because of one thing: the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine protects people from getting sick and spreading the virus. It is the reason why the spread of COVID has declined sharply in recent months and it is why mask mandates and other mitigation protocols are being rescinded. We are almost at the end of the tunnel. It is nearly morning. But in order for us to get there, more South Carolinians need to get vaccinated.

According to DHEC, only half of South Carolina residents have received the first dose of the vaccine and only 43.4% are fully vaccinated. That is five percentage points below the national figure, and is why our state ranks near the bottom of adults vaccinated, compared to the rest of the country. It is the reason why Vice President Kamala Harris visited our state last month to spread the word about the importance of getting vaccinated. I applaud her for coming here and I hope it will inspire more South Carolinians to take the vaccine.

The truth is this: COVID-19 will continue to spread if not enough people are vaccinated. Until a large percentage of the population is vaccinated and immune, there will be plenty of hosts for the virus to contaminate. This prevents us from putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror. Getting the vaccine will help our community and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For people of color, the vaccine is crucial because the virus has disproportionately affected our communities. Black and brown Americans have been getting severely ill and dying from COVID-19 at a greater rate than the rest of the population. This is due, in part, to of a lack of access to health care and a higher rate of chronic health conditions within our community. The vaccine is vital, and it has been and will continue to save lives.

I know many of you are hesitant to receive the vaccine. You do not trust it and you doubt its safety. You want to protect your children and you do not want to get sick. You want this pandemic to go away so that life can return to normal again. I understand that. You have received conflicting and sometimes contradictory information from the news, the things you see on Facebook, and the stuff you hear from elected leaders and public figures. It is confusing. But here are the facts: the vaccine is safe, and it is the key to stopping the spread of COVID-19. I ask that you consider stepping up and taking the vaccine, not just for yourself, but for your community. It is the right thing to do. 

Chardale Murray, of Hollywood, represents parts of Charleston and Colleton counties in District 116 in the South Carolina House of Representatives.