As of Thursday, more than 4.4 million of the 6.9 million people who live in Massachusetts were fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. That's a pretty good response. Yet there remain pockets in the Bay State, including the Greater New Bedford area, where fewer than 50 percent of residents have taken a poke in the arm.

I wonder why there is more resistance here than in other parts of the state? As a result of the low participation rate, the local region is considered by state health officials to be at moderate to high risk from the Delta variant. I believe this played a role in local school boards deciding to keep mask mandates in place for the coming school year.

I chose to be vaccinated. It was a decision made after consultation with my doctors and taking my age and medical condition into consideration. My wife was vaccinated, as was one of my two sons. The other opted against it. My wife's parents, both of whom are over 90 years old, took the shot while my aunt and uncle, also in their 90s, decided against it. Go figure.

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I believe that everyone should be free, at least at this point, to decide against being vaccinated if that is their wish. I will not condemn or harass anyone who would rather skip it. I feel the same about masks. If you want to wear a mask, knock yourself out. If I chose not to, leave me alone. Kids in school deserve the same respect.

But I would like to know why so many folks, particularly in our area, have opted not to be vaccinated. In the face of all of the illness and death that has resulted from this pandemic, what has led you to forgo the vaccine? I am curious, not judgmental.

Before there were vaccines – and there are now three – it seemed as though most everyone was anticipating their development and anxious for when they might qualify for one. What has changed?

The media and the politicians have certainly made the entire pandemic a political circus. The hype and constantly conflicting information surrounding COVID could be partly to blame for some people's skepticism about being vaccinated. That could mean that lives were lost by fear stoked by the cable news networks and some hacks looking for a few minutes of fame. I hope that is not the case.

So tell me, why did you decide to remain vax-free? I really want to know. Leave your thoughts in the comments under this post on Facebook or tell us through App Chat or Open Line on the WBSM app.

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.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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