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Hospital employees prepare COVID-19 vaccines in Watkinsville, Georgia on Monday, March 8, 2021. The COVID-19 vaccine clinic located at Piedmont Athens Regional’s Oconee Health Campus vaccinated about 750 employees of Oconee County Schools on Monday. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; taylormckenziephotography.com)

COVID-19 does not seem to be going away any time soon. Although the vaccines have been made readily available to all U.S. citizens, the virus continues to spread, especially with a large number of Americans refraining from taking the vaccine.

The U.S. currently has a vaccine surplus and virtually anyone can access the vaccine if they choose to do so. However, many Americans, and Georgians being no exception, have failed to take the necessary steps needed to prevent the spread of the virus. While we have vaccines going to waste, those who don’t take them are fueling COVID’s fire by facilitating its spread not only here, but globally.

Since March, 15 million vaccine doses have gone to waste in America. Meanwhile, many countries in the Global South are in desperate need of these vaccines and do not enjoy the same abundance of shots as Americans do. As we sit on our vaccine surplus, the world sits idly by waiting for their fair share.

Overall, 48% of Georgia's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Among all U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Georgia falls toward the bottom of the list — 42 out of 51 — for the percentage vaccinated. Many Georgians do not wish to get the vaccine, but watch as the virus ceases to slow its pace throughout the state.

Americans enjoy many privileges that other countries do not. Having one of the strongest economies in the world, America really doesn’t face many challenges when it comes to getting the resources and goods that they need.

Others are not so fortunate. In general, more developed countries have better health care and access to resources. In Haiti, for example, less than 1% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Nigeria, it’s only 3% and in Syria it’s less than 5%.

Majority-vaccinated countries and those who “have implemented very strong fiscal stimulus of billions of dollars are on a better recovery path than the poorer countries” both from the virus and from its economic effects, says World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. People around the world still see COVID-related deaths as a major part of their lives in ways from which Americans have mostly moved on. While we let vaccine doses go to waste, other countries are patiently waiting for their turn.

Georgia needs to do better. We have the resources made available to us to slow this virus. Taking the vaccine will prevent many from dying and getting sick. We are fortunate enough to live in a place where we can simply walk into our local CVS and get a vaccine, and even the booster, within minutes. We need to recognize that others do not have this privilege.

We are living in a state and country filled with more benefits than we acknowledge. Access to this vaccine is a privilege. Georgians who opt out of taking the vaccine need to reflect on the fact that they are fortunate to have the ability to do so. With each vaccine that is turned down in the U.S., there is likely someone in a less developed country waiting for one.

Overall, it is unfair that the United States has such a large surplus of the vaccine, especially while other countries have very little access to it, and it is even more unfair that people are not utilizing these resources, knowing that it saves lives and that it could also be allocated elsewhere.

In fairness, the issue of vaccine distribution is a governmental issue and goes beyond citizens’ control. These vaccines could be going to other nations, but aren’t. However, we should feel fortunate enough to be able to do our part here in Georgia and get the vaccine.