As of this past Monday, all Floridians 18 years of age and older are eligible to receive any FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and people 16-17 can get the Pfizer vaccine. A little over a year after the pandemic shut us down, this is what so many of us have been waiting for: a chance to live our lives again. So much of everyday living that we took for granted may be just a little closer to available on a large-scale basis again. I, for one, can’t wait.

Travel — a little later this year, vaccination card in hand, I will board a plane and take off for a new destination. Yes, I will still wear a mask on the plane and in public indoor spaces. But I’ll feel comfortable enough to fly inside a small metal tube and won’t even complain (much) about airport security. 

Concerts and events — come July, I’ll be able to attend an actual concert by one of my favorites, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit. I’ll be able to attend a songwriters’ workshop in Nashville that was delayed over a year by COVID. I’ll sweat my you-know-what off on the Marathon Amphitheater stage at the Florida Keys BrewBQ event. I’ll finally get to see the James Taylor & Jackson Browne concert I’ve had tickets for since December 2019. And if we can do it safely, it will be really great to have a July 4th celebration at Sombrero Beach.

To me, the COVID-19 vaccine means freedom. I won’t have to worry about catching the vile contagion that has taken more than a half-million American lives and caused so much suffering for so many. I won’t have to worry if I have an asymptomatic case and could possibly infect others. I won’t have to worry about spending time indoors with other people. I’ll be able to travel, play and listen to live music with others, attend a sporting event, hug a friend.

There are three versions of the coronavirus vaccine available in the United States: the two-shot Moderna and Pfizer, and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson. All three are effective at preventing the disease and will significantly reduce (and virtually eliminate, according to the experts) serious illness, hospitalizations, and death from COVID cases.

And aside from some minor side effects that have been reported, all three available vaccines are safe. They don’t contain the COVID-19 virus. They don’t contain nanoparticle tracers so the Deep State can track your movements (they can already easily do that with your cell phones). And they won’t cause an appendage to grow out of your forehead. From the CDC: “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, and these vaccines will undergo the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. CDC recommends you get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible.”

I got my second Moderna shot nearly two weeks ago. Outside of some very minor soreness where I got the shot, I had no other side effects. I could barely feel the injection itself. The only outside-the-norm effect I can report is the desire to do a happy dance now and again.

There is no requirement — federal, state, or local — that will force anyone to get a vaccine. It’s still a matter of personal choice. Why anyone who is eligible for a vaccination would refuse one, however, just boggles my mind. Airlines, mass transit, events, and other such gatherings may require a vaccination card or a negative test before allowing anyone to board an aircraft or gain admission. I don’t have a problem with that.

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Since the pandemic basically shut the world down a little over a year ago, there has been a lot of fear. All of us were afraid of contracting the virus as we saw friends and family dealing with serious illness, complications and even the deaths of our loved ones. But there is a way past the fear and isolation we’ve come to know. Nearly 170 million doses of COVID vaccines have been administered in the United States, with more than 62 million Americans fully vaccinated. And there have been incredibly few complications. It’s really simple — the more we get vaccinated, the more we get our lives back.

I want to live again. How about you?

Catch John Wednesdays at Herbie’s, Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Friday on Facebook Live, and Saturday night at the Key Colony Inn. Music wherever you get your streaming or downloads. www.facebook.com/john.bartus

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