Want to help end the COVID pandemic? Get vaccinated.
COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our community. More than 500,000 Americans have died and more than 28 million Americans have gotten sick as a result of the pandemic. Since January, infection rates have started to come down, thanks to the social distancing measures we have adopted and the availability of vaccines for vulnerable populations. The next step toward enabling our society to return to normal will be for all of us to get vaccinated so that we can achieve herd immunity.
Herd immunity, or community immunity, means that when a sufficient percentage of a population is immune to an infectious disease, it is much more difficult for the virus to spread from person to person. Even individuals who have not been vaccinated (such as newborns and those who are unable to take the vaccines) are offered some protection.
But widespread public skepticism about vaccines is a major challenge to achieving herd immunity. In a November 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center, roughly 40 percent of Americans surveyed said they would not get a coronavirus vaccine. (Scientists estimated that herd immunity can only work if 80-90% of the population are vaccinated).
Achieving herd immunity is even more important now that new strains of the coronavirus are emerging, some of which may be more dangerous than what we’ve seen before. Vaccinations are our best tool for slowing down the rate of new infections for these new strains of the virus too.
Which vaccines are available?
There are three vaccines currently available in the United States. Public officials state all of them are extremely safe and generally only have very mild side effects such as pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site. Other symptoms may feel like a mild case of the flu, such as chills, tiredness, and headaches. These side effects usually go away after a day or two.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is given in two shots, 21 days apart. Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in people without evidence of previous infection.
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is given in two shots, 28 days apart. Based on evidence from clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected.
One significant advantage of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is that it is given in a single dose. The clinical trials showed that it was 85% protective against severe disease and there were no hospitalizations or deaths after the 28-day period in which immunity developed.
Public health officials say that all three vaccines are extremely effective and that everyone should get vaccinated with whichever vaccine offered to them. Right now, there is not enough vaccine available to inoculate everyone. President Joe Biden recently announced that the United States will have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May, two months earlier than the administration had previously estimated.
While many of us wait for our turn to get vaccinated, it’s important to keep doing what we’ve been doing to protect ourselves, including wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing, and avoiding large crowds.
Confused by what you’ve been reading? Go directly to the source.
There’s a lot of misinformation circulating about COVID-19 and vaccines on the internet and on social media. If you have questions, visit these websites:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the nation’s health protection agency, saving lives and protecting people from health, safety, and security threats. The CDC’s website has best practices that help prevent people from getting or spreading COVID and extensive information about vaccines.
MyTurn is the State of California’s official website for setting up vaccination appointments. Every Californian can sign up at the site or call (833) 422-4255 to find out when it’s their turn to get the vaccine.
County Department of Health websites are also an excellent source of vaccine information, including Santa Clara County, Alameda County, San Mateo County, or Sacramento County.
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