There are two excellent reasons to get vaccinated against Covid-19: to protect yourself and to protect everyone around you.

Since vaccines first became widely available less than a year ago, studies and real-world experience have confirmed them to be highly effective in reducing the worst outcomes from the coronavirus.

Through late July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had just 6,587 reports of breakthrough infections that resulted in hospitalization or death among 163 million fully vaccinated people.

But scientists say keeping the virus from mutating into more dangerous variants depends on having most of the population vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals provide the virus with a breeding ground to adapt and change in ways that could eventually be resistant to the current vaccines. So far, the three widely available vaccines appear to be effective against the new Delta variant, now widespread in the U.S.

Vaccination, of course, is not a total guarantee against infection. Breakthrough cases here and elsewhere confirm that it is possible, if much less likely, for fully vaccinated individuals to contract the coronavirus.

Let’s look at the recent numbers on the Island. For the two weeks ending August 14, the Island boards have health have reported 135 positive PCR tests. Of those, 67 were among people who were fully vaccinated, 45 were among people who were unvaccinated and 23 were classified as unknown.

At first blush, these numbers seem alarming. But the Island has a significantly higher proportion of vaccinated than unvaccinated residents, with vax rates currently estimated at about 88 per cent. If the population is 20,000, that suggests there are 17,600 vaccinated people, and 2,400 unvaccinated people. That puts the case rate among vaccinated residents at 0.3 per cent. The case rate among unvaccinated residents is 2 per cent, or more than 6 times higher.

Moreover, Island hospital officials said the sickest patients they have seen in recent weeks are unvaccinated. They have also reported no incidences of serious vaccine side effects beyond flu-like symptoms immediately after the shot.

In addition to vaccination, the next best way to prevent yourself and others from infection is to wear a mask in public, a common-sense public health practice that has become sadly politicized. It is now well established that Covid-19 is spread through respiratory droplets. What easier way to limit its spread?

Some people would have us believe that mandating masks is an infringement of liberty.

We are reminded of an old adage, the origin of which is unclear, but seems to have been coined for our time.

“Your freedom to swing your arms ends where my nose begins.”

Please: get vaccinated and mask up.