In 2020, most of the country avoided holiday family gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For twelve months, we have yearned for outside to “open up” and for things to get back to normal. Although the world will probably never be as it once was, if we are going to have any semblance of what used to be, vaccination is the key!
Simply put, vaccines save lives! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines are one of the greatest success stories in public health. Through use of vaccines, we have eradicated smallpox and nearly eliminated wild polio virus. The number of people who experience the devastating effects of preventable infectious diseases like measles, diphtheria, and whooping cough is at an all-time low.
At no other time in this century has vaccination been more important, especially for minority communities. COVID-19 has totally changed us and how we live our lives. The concept of vaccine hesitancy is understandable in minority communities given the well-documented history of mistrust due to unethical practices in healthcare aimed at Black and Brown communities. However, it is important for us as members of the public health community to point out the injustices when they are present and support efforts when they are in the best interest of the communities that we work with every day.
So here are the facts. Unvaccinated individuals are now at the greatest risk for severe illness and death due to COVID-19. According to data from the MS State Department of Health, 91% of the cases of COVID-19, 79% of those hospitalized with COVID-19, and 73% of the deaths from COVID-19 are among unvaccinated individuals. It is especially disheartening when we understand that the heartache that these communities feel at the loss of a loved one is preventable. The answer? Vaccination.
So, here is my plea. If you have questions about the safety of the vaccine, speak with your healthcare provider or speak to someone that you trust that has had the vaccine. Then, ask yourself this question? Am I my brother’s or sister’s keeper? If you are, then isn’t it our responsibility to protect our neighbors, our friends, and even people that we don’t know by doing everything we can to make them safe? The best way to do that is to practice social distancing, wear a mask, and yes, take the shot!
Tips to stay safe
during the holidays
Wash hands with anti-bacterial soap for 20 seconds.
Wear a mask in public.
Stay 6 feet away from others in public.
Follow local and state guidelines.
Stay at home if you are feeling sick.
Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas.
Get tested if you think you have been exposed to COVID.
Cover coughs and sneezes.
Air circulation is key. If possible, open windows and doors.
Turn on exhaust fans over stove.
Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly.
Monitor your health daily.
Sandra Carr-Melvin, DrPH, MPH, MT (ASCP) is Chief Executive Officer/Founder, Institute for the Advancement of Minority Health.