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Even though I am in my 60s, part of my brain still thinks I am still in my 20s. My 20-year-old self doesn’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

My 20-year-old self thinks that, even in my 60s, I am young and healthy. I’ve run a marathon and still run each week. For fun I swam 2.5 miles last July 4th to celebrate. COVID-19 is not to be feared for the strong.

What’s the virus going to do to me? I never get sick. I don’t need the annual flu vaccine either, says my 20-year-old self. The one time I did get the shot, I got sick for a week. Never again.

I am strong – like a bull.

The 20-year-old part of my brain also reminds me that the COVID-19 vaccines are new. No one actually knows the long-term effects.

I’m not around frail old people very often, so I am unlikely to accidentally get someone sick who is likely to die from COVID-19.

And, truth be told, there’s part of me that doesn’t trust the medical system. Doctors are not God. Our medical system makes or can make mistakes.

Heck, our health care leadership told us we didn’t need to wear masks because of COVID-19. Now we know they apparently “misspoke,” because they were trying to save masks for health care professionals.

They also suggested 50 percent was herd immunity. Now they keep bumping up herd immunity because they think we can hear the truth. Now we are told it will take 90 percent to get herd immunity. How can we trust medical leadership to tell us the truth about the virus or the vaccine?

Plus, medical professionals seem to be downplaying the value of the vaccine. You still need to wear a mask and social distance. You can still get sick. Even with the vaccine, maybe you can still get others sick. There are other strains – we don’t know if the vaccine will be effective against those.

My 20-year-old brain in my 60-something body says getting the vaccine just isn’t worth the risks.

But hold on — the 60-something part of my brain feels a little different.

I never understood the early-on advice from medical professionals who said don’t wear a mask. When I was a child, my mother always said, “Hey, cover your mouth when you cough. You don’t want to accidentally get someone else sick. Have a little respect for your neighbors.”

It turns out Momma was right. Her advice still resonates. Have a little respect for your neighbors.

It’s not just older neighbors who are at risk from COVID-19. Many younger neighbors look quite healthy, but they have underlying health conditions. A healthy-looking 20-year-old with an autoimmune-challenged body is more likely to die from COVID-19 than someone with gray hair who is otherwise healthy.

There are many people for us to infect who are at risk. That person next to you may look healthy, but 45 percent of all Americans are on some kind of prescription drug medicine. Out of an abundance of caution for the welfare of our fellow human beings – take the vaccine, says my 60-something self.

We all understand there is no such thing as zero risk in life, but which choice about whether to take the COVID-19 vaccine carries the most personal risk?

One study showed a third of those hospitalized with COVID-19 were still experiencing neurological reactions even six months later. About 87 percent of those hospitalized had at least one lingering symptom from having had COVID-19. There is a nickname for this group – COVID-19 Long Haulers.

The health risks to you of not taking the vaccine look much higher than health risks from taking the vaccine.

So far, tens of millions of people have taken different vaccines from multiple drug companies. There is no evidence of widespread health risk from any of the vaccines beyond an occasional significant allergic reaction, which an EpiPen takes care of.

In the end, I believe it comes down to my Momma’s voice in my head.

“Hey, boy. Take the vaccine. You don’t want to get someone else sick accidentally. Have some respect for your neighbor.”

Share your thoughts.

David Dunn-Rankin is CEO of D-R Media, which owns the Winter Haven Sun, Four Corners News-Sun and Polk News-Sun in Polk County, as well as newspapers in Highlands, Lake and Sumter counties. He can be reached at david@d-r.media.