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An appeal to the vaccinated

About 51% of Michigan’s 10 million residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and if you’re reading today’s Detroit Free Press, you’re probably one of them.

The pandemic that has extinguished 660,000 American lives continues, but you’ve done the most important thing ordinary citizens can do to slow its transmission and limit its terrible toll. We’re all confronting a deadly problem, and you’ve chosen to be part of the solution.

Now, we need you to play a bigger part.

The impact of your initiative will be significantly diminished unless a significant number of the approximately 3 million eligible Michiganders who have so far declined vaccinations overcome their reservations.

And after nine months in which neither the manifest risk of death nor the pleas of epidemiological experts, elected leaders and mainstream media have turned the tide, it’s increasingly apparent that you, the vaccinated, are the last, best hope to overcome the hesitance and distrust of the unvaccinated minority.

That’s why we’re seeking to enlist you in a benevolent conspiracy — a team effort to persuade our unvaccinated family members, friends, neighbors and work colleagues to join in the unfinished war against COVID-19.

We’ve done the homework

For today’s special edition, more than a dozen Free Press journalists have collected, distilled and critically examined what researchers have learned about the vaccines most Michigan adults have already received. If you’re a skeptic with questions or lingering doubts about the safety, efficacy or side effects of the shots, you’ll find answers here. If you’ve been meaning to get vaccinated but just haven’t gotten around to it, we can help you find your free shot today: Text your ZIP code to 438829 for a list of vaccination sites in your area, a number you can call if you need more help, and information on getting a free ride using Uber or Lyft.

But we’re not naïve; we know that unvaccinated Michiganders are the least likely to take advantage of the data Free Press journalists have taken such pains to fact-check and elucidate, and the most likely to dismiss its validity. So we hope vaccinated readers will think of today’s Free Press as a toolbox designed to facilitate their own one-on-one campaigns.

Harnessing the power of example

In making this appeal, we’re attempting to replicate a successful campaign we undertook in 2018, when we asked Free Press readers to help reverse a steady decline in the number of voters participating in Michigan’s crucial primary elections.

Keenly aware that those in the habit of reading a daily newspaper were most likely to vote, we encouraged our already civically engaged readers to take what we called the 10-5-1 pledge. Those who took up the challenge agreed to send emails inviting 10 people they knew to join them at the polls that August, follow up with one-on-one conversations with five of those 10, and bring one voter with them to the polls on Election Day.

While no one can claim exclusive credit for the surge in electoral participation that followed, we believe our 10-5-1 campaign contributed to record turnouts in both the 2018 primary and the November general election — and in fact, research into the power of personal connection supports our belief. If we’re correct, our 10-5-1 initiative confirmed what election experts have long argued: Nothing is more effective in coaxing reluctant voters to the polls than a personal appeal from someone they know and trust.

When persuasion fails

That doesn’t mean President Joe Biden overreacted when he ordered federal workers to get vaccinated (without the testing option) as a condition of employment, or when he ordered private companies with more than 100 employees to enforce the same requirement or submit to regular testing.

It is always better when citizens agree to follow practices that serve the public interest without coercion. But democratic governments have never hesitated to mandate compliance with crucial wartime measures (such as rationing), even when most people were eager to observe them voluntarily. Biden has not only the legal authority to demand that today’s Americans bear their fair share of this pandemic fight, but also the moral obligation to insist on it.

This is not an impossible lift. Michigan will never achieve universal vaccination, but if a majority of its vaccinated residents each persuaded one unvaccinated acquaintance to get the shot, our state’s vaccination rate would vault into 80% of the total population, a level epidemiologists say provides everyone with a dramatically greater margin of protection from death and serious illness.

That’s an aspiration worthy of the recruitment campaign we’re championing today, and we urge our vaccinated readers to join it.

Your example can be the most potent weapon in Michigan’s fight against COVID-19. We hope you’ll use the resources provided in today’s Free Press to amplify its power.

— Detroit Free Press

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