Protect others! That's the advice of NFL Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden. Getting the vaccine is an easy way to protect yourself and others in your community.

We've come a long way since March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic upended nearly every aspect of life worldwide.

Now with a COVID vaccine widely available, millions of people have taken this step toward putting it all behind us.

But everyone is different and considers the question "Should I Get the Vaccine?" through the lens of their own health, beliefs and circumstance.

To help you work through this decision, we have put together a list of the benefits of the COVID vaccine.

Reasons to Take the Vaccine:

If you are already vaccinated, share this with people you know who are still deciding whether to be vaccinated.

If you are unvaccinated, you are unprotected.

It may look like the pandemic is winding down, but the virus is still circulating widely in every community. If you are not vaccinated, then you are still just as vulnerable to the disease as ever.

The vaccines work.

All the vaccines authorized in the United States are nearly 100 percent effective against death and hospitalization. This is the key fact about their effectiveness: It is because COVID can cause severe illness and death in a significant number of people, that the pandemic has disrupted everyone's lives.

As more people have gotten vaccinated, research has shown that the vaccines have been effective at preventing severe disease with the new strains of the virus that are circulating in the United States.

The vaccines are safe, and the virus is dangerous.

Millions of people across the world have gotten the vaccine safely. On the other hand, COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in the United States as recently as early 2021.

The risk of getting COVID (and possibly dying from it) is far greater than the risks associated with the vaccine. Allergic reactions and other adverse events from the vaccines are very rare.

While the vaccines were developed quickly, this does not mean they are unsafe. They went through the same layers of review and testing as other vaccines. However, because of the pandemic, some barriers to development, related to funding and manufacturing, were removed. Read about the vaccines were developed so quickly and safely.

When you are vaccinated, you are free to:

  • Travel outside the state without testing or quarantine requirements.
  • Celebrate those milestones we missed in 2020 by gathering in small groups with people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated (if the unvaccinated people are not at higher risk for the disease). Check out this handy chart and when in doubt – wear your mask.
  • Avoid quarantining if you are exposed to someone who has COVID (in most cases), as long as you don't have symptoms. This means no longer potentially missing work or other important events due to a COVID-19 exposure.
  • Show off your smile. While wearing masks in public is still needed in places where the law requires it, the CDC says fully vaccinated people (meaning, two weeks after your final shot for one- or two-dose vaccines) can take off their masks in certain indoor and outdoor settings. Please continue to follow any masking guidelines set by local businesses, your workplace, public transportation and other areas as needed.

Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control about what you can do once you're vaccinated.

It helps improve the economy (and possibly your own finances).

The pace of economic recovery is directly linked to the pace of the vaccine roll-out, according to economists at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business.

Before COVID vaccines were developed, lock-downs were how governments slowed the spread of the disease. As more people are vaccinated and the spread of the virus slows, life can begin to get back to normal. That means businesses opening, jobs being created and spending boosted.

For individuals, the vaccine means you can feel safer going back to work. And you've lowered the risk of missing work due to an extended illness or because you had to quarantine after an exposure (as long as you don't have any symptoms).

Your vaccination can keep others safe.

If you are unvaccinated and get COVID, you could give the virus to someone else who could get severely ill or even die — even if your own symptoms are mild.

And since children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated and people who have a compromised immune system may remain at risk even when vaccinated, there are a large number of people who remain vulnerable to the disease. Those who have the ability to be protected can choose to protect them.

The more people who choose vaccination, the safer we all are.

The vaccine is free and easy to schedule.

While in the beginning vaccination appointments were scarce, now that the vaccine is available to all Marylanders ages 12 and up, making an appointment is easy.

The state's mass vaccination sites, such as the Baltimore Convention Center, offer walk-in vaccinations. Learn more about how to get the vaccine.