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OPINION

LOCAL OPINION: COVID vaccines are a shot in the arm

By Mark Clure, C.F.P and Harvey Sternberg, M.D.

On the day that the first COVID vaccine was administered, the United States passed 300,000 deaths, the most of any county in the world. Six weeks later, over 400,000 people have died. By now, nearly all of us have friends or family that have been touched by the virus. For those who have lost loved ones we offer our sincere condolences. 

A vial of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, which is storing Siskiyou County's doses until they can be delivered next week.

The vaccine offers hope for winning this fight. As of this writing, over 20 million shots have been given and inoculations now average over 1 million per day. 

A shot in the arm for each of us is also a shot in the arm for our economy. As vaccination distribution ramps up, improving prospects of reigning in the pandemic, the economy can begin to recuperate. Once we can more safely congregate, we can begin to reopen schools, restaurants and bars, and travel can resume. Personally, I can’t wait to hear the Southwest Airlines voiceover, “you are now free to move about the country.” Getting people healthy and back to work – earning and spending – is the remedy. 

Still, most of the conversation around vaccines tends to focus their limitations; we don’t know their long-term effects, they’re not 100% effective, and even these vaccinated may be able to spread the virus. Indeed, vaccines can be intimidating, but they can also be very beneficial.

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There are currently two approved vaccines in the U.S, with several more in the late stages of testing, including testing on children. These vaccines work by producing antibodies that can block the spike protein. The spike protein is the part of the virus that attacks to our cells. When blocked, the virus cannot infect us. 

The fundamental technology used to create these vaccines have been in development for over 10 years. There is no virus in the vaccine. You cannot become infected by receiving it. 

The currently available vaccines have been shown to be 95% effective in preventing disease, compared to 40-60% protection from the flu vaccine. In addition, the antibodies have shown to be protective for 12 months or more. 

Still, controversy persists around lockdowns, personal freedoms, and vaccines in general. If you have questions about the vaccine, see the CDC.gov website for more information and talk to your doctor. 

To arrest the spread of COVID-19  we will need 70-85% of our population to be immunized by either having had the virus or by being vaccinated. Our goal should be to keep the virus from finding people who are not immune to the infection. Until we have conquered the pandemic, it is still possible to carry the virus without symptoms and pass it on to those not protected. This mean that even after vaccination it is still necessary to continue to mask and follow CDC guidelines. 

Prospects for controlling the pandemic and thereby improving the economy outlook are on the rise. While 2020 will be defined as the year of COVID, working together we can make 2021 the year that our friends and families get back to work and our kids are able to safely return to school.