A year into the declared pandemic, it feels to many like COVID-19 is dragging on. Indeed, this last year seems much longer than just 12 months.
That said, public health experts have long warned that this will be a marathon, not a sprint. With the authorization of three safe and highly effective vaccines for use in the United States since December, hopefully the finish line is not too far off.
The response to the pandemic can be said to have four phases which are prevention (public health measures and vaccines), detection (testing), treatment and recovery. One question is what the recovery phase will look like. A lot of that likely depends on what the vaccination campaign looks like, especially in the coming weeks and months.
A successful vaccination campaign relies on logistics and vaccine acceptance. With an increasing supply of vaccines, it is now anticipated that all adults will be vaccine eligible by May 1. In some areas of the country, widespread vaccine access already exists.
I have personally administered hundreds of doses of COVID vaccine in addition to receiving two doses of COVID vaccine myself. I have been gratified to see people lining up by the hundreds to receive a vaccine at community events, phone lines congested with people seeking a vaccine appointment and a general sense of enthusiasm about getting a COVID vaccine.
I have never received so many positive comments and truly heartfelt expressions of gratitude delivered so regularly as during this COVID vaccine campaign. There is a real sense that these safe and effective vaccines can help us end this thing and return to some sense of normalcy.
I have had dozens of vaccine recipients tell me that this is the first vaccine they have received in years and they are so excited for the opportunity. I think this is attributable to many reasons, at least one of which is the transparency with which COVID vaccines have been developed, tested and authorized for use. Transparency about these processes combined with education are critical elements in promoting vaccine acceptance in the broader community, which will be important to our transition into the recovery phase of the pandemic.
Open dialogue about vaccine effectiveness and safety is a good thing. It allows people to express their questions and have them answered. Setting an example by getting vaccinated is another way to engender trust in the vaccine as another tool in the toolbox to fight the pandemic.
Getting your vaccine helps build your personal immunity. Encouraging your family, your friends and your neighbors to get vaccinated helps build community immunity. Community immunity accomplishes several important goals. It helps protect the most vulnerable members of society. It reduces the ability of the virus to find a place to go and to propagate itself. Finally, it ultimately leads us to the end of this pandemic.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Ute Health Center in Towaoc.