For a year and a half Maine has battled COVID-19 along with the rest of the globe.

For reasons including its relatively sparse population as well as the wisdom of political leaders who took the danger seriously early on, the sacrifice of business owners who closed and then adapted to the new conditions and the public spirit of many of its residents, who got vaccinated when they were eligible for their own sake and that of their neighbors, the state has fared better than many other places in the nation and the world.

The virus’ delta variant threatens Maine’s relative success in combating the illness so far. Our case counts and hospitalization rates are once again climbing, after trending sharply downward in recent months.

Last week, Gov. Janet Mills acted to try to stem the mounting tide of new cases by requiring health care workers, including the members of ambulance crews, to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The emergency rule, issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services and Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was hailed by the Maine Hospital Association, Maine Medical Association, Maine Primary Care Association, Maine Health Care Association, Maine Dental Association, the state EMS director, Maine Nurse Practitioner Association, and the state’s two largest health systems, MaineHealth and Northern Light Health.

Already, a large proportion of health care workers have received their shots. According to the state, 80.3 % of hospital employees, 73% of staff at nursing facilities and 68.2% of those who work at intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities have been fully vaccinated. It is time the rest of their coworkers did likewise to protect their patients, families and the general public, as well as themselves.

It is also time for all eligible Mainers who have not yet done so to step up and get vaccinated against COVID-19. With 200 million Americans having received a vaccine, and millions more around the world, these pharmaceuticals have been shown to be not only safe and effective, but also our best defense against further spread – and further mutations – of the COVID-19 virus.

Getting protected against a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease is not a matter of surrendering one’s civil liberties. It is a matter of understanding one’s civic responsibilities. In countries across the globe, people who are dying, and watching their families die, from COVID-19 because they do not have access to a vaccine see the resistance to these life-saving drugs in the United States for what it is: the foot-stamping of privileged children who think they can always change their minds if the virus comes too close to them.

We hope our fellow Mainers will not wait until they are sick to decide vaccination is a good idea, for then it may be too late.

Editor’s note: We are running this editorial in conjunction with The Boston Globe Opinion COVID-19 Vaccination Project, which aims to debunk myths about vaccines and identify other barriers to vaccination. Many members of the Maine Press Association are joining in this effort led by The Globe. See Village Soup for related stories.

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