MINOT, N.D. — Dr. Anthony Fauci, in some circles venerated as the grand-high poobah of the COVID-19 resistance, is telling people that, though he's been vaccinated, he's still living as though he isn't.

"Being fully vaccinated, Fauci said, has changed his behavior — but only slightly," Business Insider reported earlier this month.

We need to understand that this is a fundamentally anti-vaccine position.

If the message is that you still have to live with pandemic-era restrictions on your life — masking and social distancing and travel/gathering limitations — even after getting the vaccine, then what we're being told, as a practical matter of rhetoric, is that the vaccine doesn't really work.

Which is untrue.

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The vaccines available in the United States work. Remarkably well. Their rapid development and deployment (which even this Trump critic can admit is due in no small part to the former president's administration) is a ringing victory for modern medical science.

Fauci may be right that there are risks to even fully vaccinated people getting their lives back to normal, but is that risk greater than the one we face from vaccine hesitancy?

Here in North Dakota, the vaccine rollout has gone swimmingly, from an administrative perspective, but politically and culturally, we're running into a wall. "North Dakota has one of the nation's highest rates of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy," Patrick Springer reports.

The data bears that out. According to the state Department of Health, just under 50% of eligible North Dakotans have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 40.5% have received one shot. Those are good numbers, but the trend lines behind them are a bit depressing.

The rate at which North Dakotans are getting the shot has plateaued. People are still getting the shots, but the rate has slowed, and these days Gov. Doug Burgum is mostly talking about how many Canadians we're going to vaccinate.

This graph, created by the state Department of Health, shows North Dakota weekly vaccine coverage rates
This graph, created by the state Department of Health, shows North Dakota weekly vaccine coverage rates

The quickest path back to a post-pandemic normal is vaccination, but how do we persuade those hesitant to get the shots to roll up their sleeves when high-profile people such as Dr. Fauci are essentially telling us it makes no difference?

Getting the shot is a little scary! I've received two shots of Moderna, and each time it knocked me flat on my back for about 36 hours. We may also need more shots in the future to boost immunity and protect against variants.

People need to feel like getting vaccinated, both now and in the future, is worth it.

Fauci is making it seem like it isn't.

North Dakota's leaders are doing their part to make the opposite argument. On the state level, Burgum lifted the mask mandate back in January. Since then, as the state's vaccination count has grown, many local communities have followed suit and lifted their own mandates.

Schools have begun lifting their mandates and restrictions, too, and we're slowly seeing community events filling up our calendars again. This past weekend my family and I attended a comic book convention in Minot that was crowded with people who were clearly giddy at being out of the house.

The message should be that these climbdowns from pandemic-era proscriptions are due to the proliferation of vaccines.

Instead, the message we're often getting is that we ought to go on isolating ourselves in our homes, ordering in food, and only communicating with friends and loved ones electronically, despite the vaccinations.

That's wrong.

If we want to overcome vaccine hesitancy, we must talk and act as though they work. Because they do.

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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.