A recent video sent to me showed the famous anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. ranting in Italy about Italy’s vaccine mandates. Honestly, content-wise, I don’t think the video differs much from debates about vaccine mandates here in this country.

Of course, the video coincides with Kennedy’s latest book release, so forgive me if I seem a bit skeptical of the timing.

Frankly, I’m tired of all of this. I’ve had my fill of conspiracy speakers, books, videos — you name it. I’ve deleted more Facebook contacts than I can count in the last year because I just don’t want to read what they have to say when it comes to one conspiracy theory or another.

But as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, I’m reminded of the freedom getting vaccinated has given me.

It’s made me feel more protected when I go to cover meetings or interview people for news stories. A month ago, I felt safe going to Nashville, Tenn., to spend a couple of days with a good friend, seeing a couple of concerts at the Ryman Auditorium. In a couple of weeks, Aggie and I will spend a few days in New York. We would not have considered this trip if we weren’t vaccinated.

Most importantly, being vaccinated has let me see my grandchildren in person.

When the pandemic first took hold and we were locked down, our daughter and son-in-law were living with us. So Aggie and I got to see our granddaughter Peyton every day.

Our granddaughter Adeline lives in Cedar Rapids and between her folks and us, we played things pretty close to the vest and stayed away from each other for several months.

I think Aggie went four or five months without seeing Adeline and her parents in person. Facetime is nice, but it’s no substitute for a big old hug around the neck from your granddaughter.

My only in-person contact with Adeline during those first few months was in late April 2020. I was in the Cedar Rapids area and called to see if I could swing by.

We set some ground rules for the visit. We would all be outside, a safe distance away from one another. Adeline was busy drawing on the driveway in chalk. While I would have liked to have gotten down to help her, I kept my distance and admired her artistic endeavors.

When it was time to leave, there was no hug or kiss. Adeline and I did blow kisses to one another, and while I’ll never turn down a blown kiss, it’s not the same thing.

So this Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m thankful for the COVID-19 vaccine, including a recent booster I received just last week.

I think of this when I see folks talking about liberty and freedom as reasons for not getting vaccinated or submitting to weekly testing. I don’t agree with it, but everybody gets their own opinion.

But I will tell you this. If a shot that has been proven safe and effective is what it takes for me to see my kids and grandkids and to keep them safe, you can count me in. Because at the end of the day, when it comes to the grandkids, nothing beats a kiss and a big old hug around the neck.