Northwest Missourian Opinion

In recent weeks, we have either heard or read heartbreaking stories about unvaccinated patients in the ICU begging their family members and friends to take COVID-19 seriously and get the vaccine. Unfortunately, some of these pleas come as the person is taking their last breath.

It has been more than 18 months since the beginning of the pandemic and six months since the development of a safe and effective vaccine. At the end of June, the daily case rate in the U.S. was around 10,000. We’re now seeing over 100,000 cases per day, the majority caused by the delta variant and affecting the unvaccinated.

We are in the middle of a COVID-19 surge that is killing our loved ones and overwhelming healthcare systems across the country — some states more than others. The pandemic is far from over, and due to the nature of viral spread, will only continue to get worse if we do not get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible.

The delta variant, which now makes up most cases, is highly contagious and is affecting a younger population. Those who are 18 to 49 years old make up the largest demographic of hospitalized people with COVID-19. Transmission rates among college students are higher due to their active lifestyles, living in densely populated areas and the perception they are at low risk for contracting the virus.

Stopping the pandemic will require all the tools we have available to us such as masking, social distancing, frequent hand washing and most importantly, the vaccine. Getting the vaccine offers an added layer of protection against COVID-19 that can help protect the individual, their family, friends and community.

The best chance we have for getting back to the normal college experience is to have as many students, faculty and staff immunized as possible. Avoiding the vaccine gives the virus time to spread and mutate, which leads to increasing susceptibility in both the vaccinated and unvaccinated population to future variants. As long as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, unvaccinated people will continue to experience the potentially dangerous effects of the virus. While vaccinated individuals do continue to get the virus, the hospitalization and death rates pale in comparison to those of the unvaccinated.

Reasons given for vaccine avoidance or hesitancy are:

Worries about side effects including long term effects. Because of the way the vaccine works, side effects are typically short-term, lasting only a day or two. According to the CDC, vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine. Serious safety problems are rare.

“I am young and healthy, so my immune system will protect me.” COVID-19 is a novel virus, which means the immune system has no antibodies to mount a defense against it, leaving the person susceptible.

“I have already had COVID-19, so I have a natural immunity and don’t need a vaccine.” Studies show that immunity provided by the vaccine is longer and better than natural immunity. It produces roughly 100 times more antibodies than infection alone.

We all want the pandemic to be over. We want students to feel safe at Northwest and in the community. All of us play a part in this effort, and vaccines remain the best protection against every strain of the novel coronavirus.

Masking regardless of vaccination status, social distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor areas adds extra layers of protection against breakthrough infections and lowers the risk of spreading the virus.

The Northwest website says students and employees may call Wellness Services at 660-562-1348 to schedule an appointment for a vaccine.

Individuals also may call the Nodaway County Health Department at 660-562-2755 or Mosaic Medical Center-Maryville at 660-562-2525 to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Watson is a pediatrics specialist at Mosaic Behavioral Health - Maryville. She completed her residency at Medical Center Hospital, San Antonio.

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