Just in the past week the Cook County Department of Public Health has begun tracking online the rate at which residents of suburban Cook County are being vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The data reveals that Riverside trails only North       

  brook, Barrington and Palos Park in the percentage of residents having obtained at least one COVID-19 vaccine and is among the top six suburbs where residents have been fully vaccinated.

Yet, just across the village’s borders, the numbers tell a different story. Just 19.8 percent of Lyons residents, 21.8 percent of North Riverside residents and 29.1 Brookfield residents have been fully vaccinated.

So, no matter where you live, we need to guard against complacency when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and employers, friends and family members should be encouraging those they interact with to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

With many vaccine clinics now accepting walk-ins, it is incumbent on all of us to step up and get fully vaccinated. 

We’ve been moaning for a year now about wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding crowds. This is how we can begin ending those things, but everyone needs to get with the program.

Just how fragile all of this is was demonstrated last week when a staff member and a kindergarten student at Hollywood School both tested positive for COVID-19 within a day of one another.

We don’t know for certain if the novel coronavirus was transmitted via in-school contact, but it’s a possibility. What does appear certain is that the staff member was not vaccinated, despite those working in schools being able to get vaccinated since January.

At some point, we’re going to need to start requiring people who work in congregate settings like schools to become vaccinated unless there is a compelling reason not to. Millions upon millions of people around the world have received vaccinations, the positivity rates where vaccines have taken hold are falling and there have been very few reports of serious side effects from the vaccines.

In February, Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care in North Riverside began mandating that its employees become vaccinated or risk not being scheduled for shifts. It was simply facing reality. The nursing home could not risk the health of its elderly residents by allowing caregivers to go unvaccinated. 

The employees weren’t let go, but they were told they wouldn’t be scheduled to work until they were inoculated. 

No matter how many people believe that their only responsibility is to secure their personal liberty on their own terms, the truth is that we are a community and each of our personal decisions affect those around us.

To put others in jeopardy is irresponsible.

In addition to encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, local, county, state and federal officials need to work harder to get vaccines to populations where inoculations are, for whatever reason, lagging. They are among some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and deserve particular attention and help.