The first vaccines have been administered in eastern Idaho to health care workers and nursing home residents, among the most vulnerable to the pandemic.

This is the only real route to “herd immunity” — a state where enough people have been vaccinated that on average 10 infected people with the virus will only infect 9 or fewer, who will infect 8 or fewer, and so on until life is back to normal.

If we are a combination of diligent and lucky, it’s possible the virus could even eventually be eliminated like smallpox — which hasn’t infected a human in nearly half a century. At the very least, widespread vaccination could make it exceptionally rare — a disease like polio, which still exists in some corners of the world but isn’t the principal concern of daily life.

But if you look around at the dismal scene in Idaho, it appears we are dead set on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Legislature plans to meet largely maskless next month. Too many won’t make minuscule sacrifices to protect their vulnerable neighbors.

If that doesn’t change, we’re going to keep setting death records. We’ve lost 1,266 neighbors at time of writing, but there will be more by time of publication.

It will take months for the vaccine to be available to everyone. The whole world wants it, but only so much has been produced, and more doses can be produced only so quickly. So it’s a waiting game, but each new dose administered brings us closer to the finish line.

Our job is to minimize new infections over these last few months.

Our first vaccine delivery makes every infection, every loss of life, every person with long-hauler syndrome we allow now all the more tragic. Every premature death now puts a point on what would have been a long, full life if we had preserved it a few more months.

And it means those deaths will be crueler because people who die of COVID-19 die alone.

Ask yourself: Do I want to be responsible for causing that to happen? If you make decisions that could spread the virus, that is what you are risking.

If you need to go to the store, have a bit of concern for your neighbors and wear a mask. If you know someone who doesn’t wear a mask in public settings, see if you can convince them to. If you’re considering a large Christmas gathering at your home, realize that if you cancel, everyone will probably show up next year.

But if you don’t it may well be someone’s last.