New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchel used his annual State of the City Address on Thursday to try and convince more city residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The health and economic impacts of the city's struggle with the virus featured prominently in Mitchell's speech delivered remotely to business and community leaders.

Mitchell said the unvaccinated have "left themselves vulnerable" to COVID.

"Vaccination rates across Southeastern Massachusetts remain stubbornly low, and especially so in the city," Mitchell said.

He also noted the unvaccinated have paid a steep price. "Since the vaccines became widely available, almost everyone in New Bedford who has died of COVID was unvaccinated," he said. I believe that to be true.

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Statistics published earlier in the week by New Bedford Light indicated that only 49 percent of New Bedford's 102,000 residents had been fully vaccinated. Mitchell said the decision not to be vaccinated is not a "decision of personal choice" because others are impacted by that decision.

"Having large numbers of unvaccinated individuals imposes costs on everyone, ranging from absenteeism from work and school to the lost productivity and learning time that comes with it," he said. "Unnecessary medical costs are imposed on employers and taxpayers, and people with serious underlying health conditions remain vulnerable."

Mitchell encouraged city employers to mandate that their employees be vaccinated and urged vaccinated residents to put pressure on the unvaccinated.

"You might tell them, 'Look, I’m not trying to impose my values on you, but I want you to know that I care about you, and I’m concerned. We all know someone who’s died from COVID. I’m just asking you to consider getting vaccinated. Your example may be more powerful than you may suspect,'" he said.

I support some of the actions that Mitchell has taken during this long ordeal to try and protect the public from COVID. At times, I think Mitchell was heavy-handed and his policies were senseless. I also believe that Mitchell should try and convince as many people as possible to get the vaccination, but I am vehemently opposed to mandates at this point.

COVID vaccines are available throughout the community at no cost to anyone who wishes to receive one. Private health care continues to provide COVID shots as well. People must make up their own minds about whether to be vaccinated based upon their medical condition and the advice of medical professionals, and not because he or she is forced to in order to continue to provide for their family.

Recent polling indicates that most Americans believe the worst of all of this has passed. Judging by the people I see resuming normal lives, I tend to agree. It's time to move on.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

Keep reading to discover answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions.