Carlos Anacleto closes his eyes Wednesday as he receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Jorge Tase, as others wait their turn in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit: Marta Lavandier / AP

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Sometimes, others say things better than we can. Like this series of headlines from this weekend’s USA Today: “We are failing one another,” was stripped across the top of the paper in huge letters.

“This is America’s fourth COVID-19 surge,” a smaller headline said. “It didn’t have to happen.”

“Let’s end it now,” the paper urged in bold lettering.

There’s a lot to unpack in that headline and the accompanying stories.

It starts with the big headline: We are failing one another. The United States is fortunate to have the best tool to ease the coronavirus pandemic — vaccines. Three of them.

Vaccinations are free and readily available. They are safe and effective. As BDN writer Jessica Piper calculated on Friday, ​​the odds of a fully vaccinated person having a confirmed COVID-19 case since January in Maine are about 1 in 1,200. The odds of an unvaccinated person in Maine testing positive for COVID-19 are roughly 1 in 36.

Yet, only half of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated in the United States. In some states, vaccine rates are below 40 percent. These states, notably Florida, are seeing rapid rises in infections, which are again overwhelming hospitals and, in some instances, ending lives.

In Florida, more than 11,000 people were hospitalized with COVID early last week. That’s the most of any time during the pandemic, including when no vaccine was available.

“The delta variant is ripping through the unvaccinated,” Mary Mayhew, the president and CEO of the Florida Medical Association and former commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, told USA Today.

Although Maine has among the highest vaccination rates in the country, cases are on the rise here. Community transmission of the virus is high or substantial in several counties, where mask wearing is recommended when indoors in public.

As USA Today said, “it didn’t have to happen.” Simply put, if many more Americans got vaccinated, the spread of COVID — and, more importantly, the development of new, more dangerous variants — could be slowed. On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public face of the federal COVID response, warned that a new variant, even more deadly than the delta variant currently spreading across the country, is likely to develop soon if many more Americans don’t get vaccinated.

Because of this, refusing to be vaccinated (if you are medically able to) is failing to protect your health, and the health of others in your community, workplace and family.

There are many  stories of people who are in the hospital being treated from COVID-19 who regret their decision to forgo the vaccine and are urging others not to make the same mistake. Sometimes it is the family of those who have died from COVID who speak out and urge vaccination.

If you are concerned about COVID-19 vaccines and their side effects, your doctor is the best source of answers to your questions. Schedule a time to talk to him or her.

Many unvaccinated Americans have said they don’t want the COVID-19 inoculation because it has not yet been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration; the vaccines are being used under emergency authorizations. Full FDA approval is expected in coming weeks.

As for the “freedom” not to vaccinate, that may soon vanish. The number of employers that will soon require vaccination is growing rapidly, as it should. Entertainment  venues, airlines and others are increasingly requiring proof of vaccination.

Perhaps because of these new requirements and rising cases and hospitalizations, the pace of vaccination is ticking up in the U.S. That is good news.

Vaccinations — and millions more Americans getting them — are the key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, which will allow businesses and schools to more fully reopen, Americans to travel more freely and our masks to be permanently put away.

That’s a future we should all be able to agree upon.

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...