Americans cherish freedom, political persuasion notwithstanding. However, free people must be responsible people, not only for their own actions but also for the well-being of others.

In a complex society we are not free to act unilaterally. Does this responsibility limit our freedom? In a way, it does. As a trite example, we are prohibited from yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Such limits on freedom are necessary.

A segment of our population cites freedom as reason for avoiding vaccination against an insidious virus. Indeed, a requirement to be vaccinated would be a loss of freedom, but so too is the loss of free speech in a crowded theater. Medical science has kept us free from pandemics of the past and it now can curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But to accomplish this end may require some loss of freedom. As stated, responsible action necessitates concern for other persons as well as for ourselves. To win over COVID requires that most of the population be vaccinated, a truism of our time.

Side effects are negative aspects to all of modern medicine, and to deal with these the Food and Drug Administration methodically evaluates side effects before approving a substance for human use. There is a parallel between drug approval and ethics. Ethics rules whether an action is right or wrong, often a difficult call. So, instead it passes judgment based on the “lesser of wrongs.” Economics deals with “cost-benefit,” a term also appropriate to drug approval.

Our responsibility to protect our fellow Americans requires that we be inoculated with the vaccine and accept whatever side effects may ensue in the interest of the common good. This is the guidance of medical science and a requirement of ethical principles.