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Join the race against variants and get the shot

Opening the COVID-19 vaccine sign-up list to everyone in the state starting later this month is the best news yet in the continuing fight to defeat the novel coronavirus and speed the day we can all begin live our lives as we did over a year ago. Now it’s vital that everyone who can be vaccinated should do so without delay.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday that every Oregonian 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine starting April 19, regardless of any underlying condition. That’s nearly two weeks earlier than previously announced. Later on Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced the same accelerated schedule nationally.

Brown said the appearance of variants of the coronavirus makes it even more important to vaccinate everyone as soon as possible, before the more infectious variants can get a foothold. Public health officials say the three vaccines now available work against the variants that have been identified here, and getting vaccinated sooner will slow the ability of new mutations to spread.

“Preliminary data show that the COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States should provide an adequate degree of protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a recent statement.

It may be that even those who have been fully vaccinated will need to get a third shot in six months or a year to protect against new strains, the New York Times reported Saturday. But for now, everyone should get their first and second shots — or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — as soon as possible.

Any of the three will protect you and those around you from COVID. So don’t wait: Take whichever vaccine is available.

Side effects are generally mild, consisting mostly of aches and fever as the body’s immune system builds a defense.

None of the vaccines contains the virus that causes COVID-19, so it is not possible to get the disease from getting the shot. The vaccines work by causing the body to produce cells with protein spikes that mimic the spikes on the surface of the coronavirus. The body recognizes the spikes as something that should not be there and produces antibodies to fight them. In effect, scientists say, the vaccine teaches the body how to fight the coronavirus.

The vaccine is not instantly effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots, three or four weeks apart. Full immunity is not reached until two weeks after the second dose. So don’t throw caution to the wind and host a big party after your first shot. For that matter, don’t do it after the second shot, either.

It will take some time for everyone who wants a shot to get one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people can visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks or distancing, but they urge continued mask use and distancing in public, and when visiting unvaccinated people who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease. The CDC also says to continue to avoid medium- and large-size in-person gatherings.

So get on the list and get the shot. You — and your family and friends — will be glad you did.