OPINION During the course of their shared history, cooperatives have adhered to Seven Cooperative Principles that guide governance, business management and engagement. Those principles have served the cooperative system well through good times and bad, across multiple sectors and through changing economic, social and cultural environments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous challenges for cooperatives, as it has for all businesses and for each of us personally. The Cooperative Network has worked diligently to help our members overcome those challenges and meet emerging opportunities. We are bullish on the future of our cooperatives and rural communities, but only if we can finally defeat COVID-19. When we do, we will once again be able to concentrate on providing the essential goods and services cooperatives provide to the general public.
That’s why it’s so important that cooperatives encourage their members and cohorts to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Cooperative Network is proud to include health-care cooperatives across Minnesota and Wisconsin among our valued members. Those health-care cooperatives strive – using every available tool – to defeat COVID-19. Still, despite wide access to the vaccines, only about half the eligible population is vaccinated.
Vaccinations in rural communities continue to lag behind urban. There are multiple reasons for that, but lack of access is not among them. Our health-care cooperatives and rural health-care providers are well-positioned to serve the public. They continue to provide factual information, access and support. As essential parts of the rural communities they serve, they know our future economic and social wellbeing is dependent on a healthy and protected population.
Adversely it’s those very health-care providers who suffer the greatest impact from the spread of COVID-19. Staff, facilities and resources are stressed to the limit serving those who become ill. That can only be controlled by expanding the number of people who have been vaccinated.
It’s often stated that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. Let’s consider the facts. Science has a successful record of developing safe vaccines against a wide array of coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS. This past research provided the head start toward developing the COVID-19 vaccination. There are no live viruses in the COVID-19 vaccine. One cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine, and the vaccine does not – in any way – interfere with a person’s DNA.
Long-term protection from COVID-19 is only available through vaccination. Some people develop short-term side effects, but that’s normal with vaccinations and a good sign. It proves the body is building immunity against the virus. That’s how the body learns to recognize COVID-19 and fight back, keeping a person out of the hospital – and out of the morgue. Those are not my words; it’s the advice of health-care providers you know and trust every day.
Cooperatives are essential components of our rural communities and have been for generations. They have been guided by the Seven Principles of Cooperatives, one of which is “Concern for Community.” This is the time to live up to that principle. The Cooperative Network supports our health-care cooperatives, shares mutual concern for our rural communities and encourages the cooperative community to work together to put COVID-19 behind us. The first step toward doing so depends on a safe and vaccinated population.
Daniel Smith is the president and CEO of the Cooperative Network, an association of cooperatives based in Madison, Wisconsin, and St. Paul, serving cooperatives with government affairs, advocacy, communications and support. Prior to joining the Cooperative Network, Smith served as the administrator for the Division of Agricultural Development at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, as well as CEO of Midwestern BioAg, a national farm-supply company based in Wisconsin. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Smith owned and operated a dairy farm in northwestern Illinois for 30 years.