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Educating about the vaccine

Elected officials at all levels need to start right now on working to convince the public that the COVID-19 vaccines we’ll soon be able to take are safe. They’ll have to help us put disinformation aside and see that the only way we’ll put this pandemic behind us is with as close as we can get to universal vaccination.

For a variety of reasons, that’s going to be a challenge: Anti-vax conspiracy theories have many believing all kinds of untrue tales about implanting chips and “marking us for elimination.”

These vaccines have already been tested on thousands of volunteers and have been found to be both highly effective and to have untroubling side effects — at worst, amounting to a couple of achy days.

In the Black community in particular, there’s no mystery about why there’s a legacy of mistrust of medical authority, even as COVID-19 is twice as likely to be fatal for Black and brown Americans.

And since many Republicans have been convinced that the disease is a “hoax” or has been overblown, why would any immunization against something that either doesn’t exist at all or is no big deal be necessary?

We’re glad to report that when it’s his turn to be vaccinated, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has agreed to get the first of his two doses publicly, on our weekly Star Opinion Live digital show.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has agreed to be vaccinated publicly, too, when it’s her turn, just as former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have said they’ll do.

“The sooner Kansans get vaccinated, the sooner our lives can return to normal,” Kelly said in a statement to The Star Editorial Board. “I know there are some Kansans concerned about the safety of the vaccine — I want to assure them that these vaccines have been tested on thousands of people and that scientists have been working towards coronavirus vaccines for nearly 20 years. COVID-19 is a coronavirus so much of the groundwork had been done. When it’s my turn, I will get vaccinated publicly to reinforce the safety and the importance of getting vaccinated.”

She did strike this note of caution, and rightly so: “Even with all of this good vaccine news, we are still likely on a six-month timetable before the majority of Kansans are vaccinated. In the meantime, we must continue to wear our face coverings, physically distance, use proper hygiene and use the free testing available. Keeping up these efforts will save lives, protect small businesses and keep our children in school where they belong.”

Ideally, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Royals catcher Salvador Perez will sign up, too, to do just as Elvis Presley did when he saved lives by getting his polio vaccine on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1956, at a time when many young adults didn’t see why they needed to do that.

* Guest editorial from The Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Mo.

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