Mental health experts are saying that untold numbers of Americans who, although they haven’t been infected with the COVID-19 virus, are nevertheless suffering due to the pandemic. They are afflicted by a pervasive malaise—a feeling of helplessness as they see the virus spread around them and affect their family, friends, and other acquaintances. Every day the news is grim as the death toll climbs ever higher. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a way for all of us to cast off helplessness, and a clear path for taking charge of our lives once again: Get vaccinated!
Over the last ten months or so we have learned a lot about COVID-19; that it can have serious, life-threatening complications, and there is no way to know how COVID-19 will affect you. And if you get sick, you can spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you. The COVID-19 vaccination is a safe, effective, and proven way to build protection against this insidious disease. It is an absolute fact that the COVID-19 vaccine will end the pandemic much sooner, and save hundreds of thousands of lives. This could especially help people in the highest risk groups, including those with underlying medical conditions, seniors, and people of color. But we must get vaccinated!
The approved vaccines have been authorized under what is known as an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Although the EUA has accelerated the process of developing the vaccines, it has been done under very strict guidelines, which require that the known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must greatly outweigh the known and potential risks. Sadly, social media channels have been filled with lies and myths about the vaccines, so it is critical that all of us check out any claims we read or hear with reliable and trustworthy sources of information (The U.S. Center for Disease Control [CDC] website is always a good place to start). If vaccine lies and myths discourage significant numbers of Americans from getting vaccinated, then this pandemic and all of the restrictions we dislike will last even longer.
Similar to other vaccines (like the flu vaccine), the COVID-19 vaccine can cause temporary minor effects like arm pain, body aches, chills, or fever, which can last a few hours to a few days. An over-the-counter painkiller can help ease these. There have been a few cases of severe allergic reactions, but they have been rare. The CDC recommends that “if you have had an immediate allergic reaction—even if it was not severe—to a vaccine or injectable therapy for another disease, ask your doctor if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will help you decide if it is safe for you to get vaccinated.”
Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced Illinois’ plan for its coronavirus vaccine rollout in general terms. In Phase 1A, healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents will get the vaccine. Once that Phase is completed, Phase 1B will center on residents who are 65 years of age and older and “frontline essential workers,” including first responders, teachers, childcare workers, grocery store employees, postal service workers, and more. “In order to reduce COVID-19 mortality and limit community spread in Black and Brown communities,” the governor says, the age requirement in Illinois is ten years lower than the recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which set the Phase 1B age at 75 and older. The Governor has not set a specific timeline for the rollout in Illinois, and he and his administration have not speculated on when enough vaccines will arrive to immunize people beyond the top priority groups. However, President Biden has set a national goal of immunizing 100 million people in the first 100 days of his administration. Based on current projections, the general public should expect to get their shots as soon as spring.
Smallpox, polio, and measles were all brought under control through vaccination. COVID-19 can be the next disease to be tamed, if we all participate. We all want life to return to normal, but that won’t happen until the vast majority of us get immunized. Roll up your sleeves, America, and let’s get this done!