(Opinion) The decision by the Utica Boilermaker to require vaccinations for this fall's 44th running of the 15K and 5K road race is the right thing to do.

I understand there will be people who don't agree, but I'm a firm believer that if we do what we're supposed to do now, the 45th Boilermaker will happen next year in July and there won't be any health restrictions.

Boilermaker President Mark Donovan announced the news at a press conference on Tuesday, and said that all participants must show proof of vaccination by September 22, in order to participate. The race, which was delayed from its normal date in July, is set to run on October 10. Donovan also announced that only registered and vaccinated runners will be allowed to attend the post-race party.

The decision comes as 70-percent of eligible New Yorkers have had at least one vaccination shot. New York was one of the hardest hit states in the country by COVID-19, and the Utica-Rome area saw its most severe saturation of the virus in November, December and January.

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I think the Boilermaker Committee was in a tough position where in order to allow thousands of people to gather together for the annual race, the only responsible thing to do was to make sure everyone was immunized.

The science is very clear that the vaccination is effective and those people who are protected by it, have a very low percentage of contracting the virus and getting seriously ill. In fact, a recent study by the Associated Press based on government data, shows that 99.92 percent of people who have died from COVID-19 since May were unvaccinated. That's a very convincing percentage considering of the 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May, only 150 people were vaccinated.

Kudos to the Boilermaker Committee and Mark Donovan for standing up and making a very difficult decision like this one, based only on safety. People who don't believe in getting the vaccination will simply have to sit this one out. Everyone hopes that the virus will be eradicated by next year so that this event and others like it, won't have to make tough decisions like the one Utica's Boilermaker made on Tuesday.

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