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With light at end of tunnel, don’t let guard down

Following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine late last week, the first shipment of the freezer-packed vials arrived in Virginia this week, with health care workers and nursing home residents the first to receive doses.

Officials have solved the logistics for quick transport of the two-dose vaccine, which must be stored at 94 degrees below zero, but the biggest hurdles will be tackling Americans’ skepticism about the shots and continuing to promote safe practices such as wearing face masks and social distancing throughout the coming year.

Considered the world’s strictest medical regulator, the FDA stated that Pfizer’s vaccine appears safe. However, the shots can cause temporary fever, fatigue and aches — meaning hospitals will need to stagger employee vaccinations. And wary Americans will be watching to see whether health care workers take the shots.

A recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Health Research poll revealed that U.S. residents are not convinced. Only about half want to be vaccinated. The remaining 50% are evenly divided between those who won’t take the vaccine and those who are unsure.

Health and elected leaders officials are also concerned that COVID fatigue and indoor holiday gatherings could lead to “spreader” events — causing a significant increase in coronavirus cases and deaths.

This global pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint, and we are nowhere near the homestretch. Even if Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine receives FDA approval as expected later this week, it will still be midspring until either of the shots are available for the average person.

In other words, this holiday season is not the time for us to let our guard — or our face masks — down. The best gift we can give the frontline health care workers we have depended on during the past nine months of the pandemic is to continue practicing 6 feet of social distancing, proper handwashing, limiting our contacts and wearing face masks. After all they have done for us, this is the least we can do for them.