Throughout my life I have been guided by four F’s: family, faith, freedom and football. So, I’m happy that it’s football season. And I’m happy to say our family is growing. This past January, our first grandchild was born, and being with him and his mother were reasons I chose to get vaccinated against COVID-19. I did not do it because someone from any government required or mandated that I had to do so. I undertook my own analysis of the facts and considered the fundamental questions I know many are now asking themselves. Is it safe? Is it effective? On all counts, I concluded the evidence was clear: yes.

I often question authority, despise nanny government, oppose excessive regulations and abhor the recent shutdown constraints on small businesses. Americans are tired of government officials imposing dictates and edicts on how we can live our lives. We don’t need the government telling us what to do—thoughtful Americans know what is right based on proven data.

When it comes to my health, I never make a medical decision without first carefully weighing the benefits. I’ve received shingles shots because those inoculations are proven to significantly reduce chances of contracting that painful disease. On the other hand, I have always refused annual flu shots because I don’t think the risks fully outweigh the benefits. But inoculations against COVID-19 are biologically superior to seasonal flu shots. They have also been through rigorous clinical trials and have inoculated tens of millions of Americans safely.

Further, the vaccine is more than 90% effective against the variants now emanating from many areas across the globe. By inducing the production of antibodies in our systems, COVID-19 vaccines not only stop many infections outright but also prevent adverse effects like those we’ve seen among the unvaccinated. ICUs are filling up with too many who are dying because they haven’t been vaccinated. According to the Virginia Department of Health, as of Oct. 8, 2021, unvaccinated Virginians developed COVID-19 at a rate of six and a half times more than the vaccinated and were six times more likely to die. That is a tragedy for them, and it’s devastating for their families.

I understand the distrust that has kept many from getting vaccinated. It feels like too many politicians have not been straight with us in recent years. They politicized the heck out of the pandemic, and similarly, some are even trying to appropriate the word “science” to mean the opposite of its definition. Like you, I remember when we heard calls not to get vaccinated because it was “the Trump vaccine.” Here is the fact: none of this political posturing changes reality, which is that getting the vaccine simply makes logical sense. Similarly, just because some have tried to politicize “science” doesn’t mean this vaccine hasn’t been proven scientifically. It has. Indeed, its rapid development is one of the truest testaments to American innovation in our lifetimes.

Unfortunately, it seems the same arrogant politicians with their condescending manner are driving some people away from the vaccine and even their jobs. Government-imposed vaccine mandates unfortunately may increase opposition to what is an otherwise common-sense choice, and it distracts from the proven benefits of getting vaccinated. What logic does it make for the government to corner us into abandoning our own health and freedom?

Empowering ourselves with this lifesaving vaccine is not only the best way to protect our own health — it’s also the best way to deprive further political oxygen to those who would force more panicked restrictions and overreach on us. It is similarly the best way to get our economy back on track, ensuring businesses and schools stay open while protecting the freedoms we hold dear.

I’m ready for all Americans to live in real freedom again.

It is encouraging that so many freedom-loving Americans have chosen to take the vaccine. They did so not because some government official coerced them, but because they decided for themselves. So, unless you’re an adult and you’re sure you have antibodies against COVID-19 and its many variants, I would respectfully encourage you to give the vaccine a second look and make an informed decision for yourself. Check out the data. Talk to your doctor. And then, I trust you’ll join me in this reasonable step to protect those you love most and smartly preserve your own peace of mind and freedom.

It’s just good ole common sense.

Governor George Allen served as Virginia’s governor (1994–1998) and U.S. senator (2001–2007). He currently lives in Virginia Beach.