Why you should be vaccinated against COVID-19

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I’m an emergency room physician. You’ve probably heard a lot from people like me over the past year. Frontline medical professionals have used every means we could think of, from social media to newspapers, to share with our communities the challenges facing local hospitals during COVID-19 and explain how you can help us save lives.

For everyone who has foregone a family tradition, donned a mask when going out in public and made other personal sacrifices to help stop the spread of this deadly virus, thank you. You’ve enabled our hospitals keep up.

Unfortunately, the job is not done. I realize that everyone is chafing at the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and frustrated by the impacts on their relationships. But there is one sure and safe way out of this tragedy — rapid, widespread vaccination.

The development of COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year was a scientific marvel. Now, getting shots in the arms of as many Americans as possible can enable us to achieve herd immunity within months and stop COVID-19. This is an urgent mission and we need everyone’s help.

First of all, please educate yourself about the COVID-19 vaccines and keep an eye on updates so you know when and where you can be vaccinated. Right now, vaccines are being given to frontline health care workers and nursing home residents in Michigan, but other seniors and high-risk individuals will be eligible soon.

Secondly, share what you know about vaccines. It’s vital that accurate information reach all parts of our communities. Our neighbors need to know that millions of vaccine doses have been safely administered. Some patients do experience mild side effects, usually after the second dose, but a day of feeling under the weather is worth it for the near-perfect protection that vaccines provide against severe COVID-19.

If you have loved ones or friends who are nervous about being vaccinated or have questions, direct them to reliable resources, such as www.michigan.gov/coronavirus. Because vaccine misinformation, if it leads too many Michiganders to opt out, will allow this pandemic to rage on, harming all of us.

Finally, take time to give thanks where it is due. To the scientists who created the approved vaccines and the new ones still in the pipeline. To the vaccine companies that invested in manufacturing facilities in advance, not knowing if they’d be used, so they could start making doses immediately upon approval. And to the distributors who have taken on the extremely complex task of getting those vaccines to the health care professionals in hospitals like mine and other facilities all across the country to be administered as quickly as possible.

The end-to-end process of vaccine distribution is unbelievably complicated and relies on a wide variety of logistics expertise. Fortunately, we have resources we can count on, the same ones that ensure flu vaccines make it to pharmacies and doctors’ offices each fall and that hospitals and other providers are always stocked with the full complement of medicines patients need.

All their work on vaccine creation and dissemination would be for naught, however, if Michiganders fail to make vaccination a top priority and thereby allow a deadly pandemic to continue. So please, take it from a doctor — get the shots.

Dr. Bethany Beard is a pediatric emergency room physician in West Michigan.

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