As a young child, I was aware of the polio epidemic and the precautions we took. I remember the Salk vaccine – a miracle. But I didn’t like shots. In elementary school, I remember screaming “bloody murder” as I was given childhood vaccines. A nurse explained to me that if I would relax it would not hurt. She was right. I had smallpox and polio vaccines. These were terrible diseases.

In 1968 I experienced Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island. At the “processing” drill instructors did not ask me if I wanted shots. There was a gauntlet of Navy Corpsmen on each side of me brandishing what looked like staple guns. They shot me in each shoulder, while another corpsman inoculated my rear. This was a fringe benefit of service – free comprehensive medical care.

Strangely enough, the Armed Forces are now giving soldiers, sailors, and Marines an option whether to take a covid-19 vaccine. They are offering vaccines so the virus will not be spread on base or in the field, compromising readiness for the battlefield. There may be a few who have medical contraindications or a sincere religious objection. From my experience in the military, I don’t think there were many in either category. I might have reenlisted if I knew that orders would become optional.

The covid-19 vaccine promises a major expansion of personal freedom. This is a serious illness that has killed about 700,000 humans in the United States. It is comparable to the numbers of American troops who died in combat in all of our wars combined.

There is no way to know what the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be. There is a large group of “long haulers” who have had serious symptoms for weeks or months. We will not know for a few years what the future holds for those who were infected this past year.

I have taught fourth grade Bible study for many years. For most of 2020, our classes were on Zoom. Some children prayed that a vaccine would be developed soon so they could be with their friends. When we talked about it I discovered that several had the virus go through their entire family.

My wife and I had the Pfizer vaccine in late February/early March. While it did not bother me at all, my wife had a bit of discomfort after the second shot. Others have had a lot of discomfort after the second shot. Hundreds of millions of vaccinations have now been given. There have been a few other complications. Many, many more would have had severe consequences (including death) without the vaccine.

Why did I take the vaccine? It was not because I was worried about my own health. I’ve had a good 70 years since birth. If I were to die tomorrow I would have a great future. I am in very good health with no comorbidities.

There are two reasons I took the shot early. First, I would like everyone to get back to normal. Normal life is not going to resume until a significant majority of us have been vaccinated. The virus will not disappear on its own. The sooner most of us have had the vaccine the sooner the virus will be unable to replicate and stop spreading.

Second, I took the shots because I would feel terrible if I inadvertently infected someone else with the virus, who then became sick or died, or spread it to someone else. Some do not realize that they can spread the virus before they have any symptoms. They might feel fine but their friends and family may die from carelessness –  an apparent failure to recognize the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When clients come to my office I ask them if they have been vaccinated.

If “yes” we take our coverings off. If the answer is “no” I keep my face shield on so that I am not inadvertently infecting them. While the vaccination that I have taken is 95% effective in preventing me from being infected, that means I have a 5% chance to become infected and spread it. However, vaccination is almost 100% effective in preventing my death or serious illness. Why would I not take it?

Paul “Skip” Stam lives and works in Apex. He practices real estate and state constitutional law. He served 16 years in the NC House, the last 10 years as the GOP leader or Speaker Pro Tem.