By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair and Joe Rouse, health director

There is a positive spin on statistics this week. US vaccinations surpass reported COVID-19 cases! Six million have received 2 doses of the vaccine. 26.4 million have received one dose. There are 26.3 million reported COVID-19 cases in the US. Put in perspective, less than 2% of the US population have been fully vaccinated.

New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations appear to be in a consistent downward trend since peaking on January 8. But we are still significantly higher than the peak in April. It is estimated that 70-85% need to be fully vaccinated before the country can begin to return to normalcy. See Peter Currier’s article for local information.

Early distribution has not been ideal. This is a huge task with an expected learning curve. You weren’t successful the first time you tried to ride a bike, bake a cake or cook a meal. Be patient. It is a work in progress. Improvement of distribution is a priority to everyone in public health.

Pfizer and Moderna are committed to delivering a total of 200 million doses by the end of March. Johnson and Johnson has joined the charge. Other companies are in the process of clinical trials. The federal government is shipping one million doses to 6,500 retail pharmacies next week. This is on top of 10.5 million doses delivered weekly to states and territories for the next 3 weeks.

Federal government is involving the Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management and Homeland Security to help increase distribution and inoculations. Patience is hard after dealing with this pandemic and the losses it has brought. The vaccine will be available to all.

Our health department is preparing so we have a plan in place as soon as vaccines are available to us. Westfield Health Department highly encourages everyone in our community to get vaccinated when it is available and you are eligible. Remember, once you are eligible it may take some time to get an appointment. Again, please be patient. Expeditious administration of the vaccine will prevent the virus from mutating.

There is a high risk of reinfection if the variants become dominant. COVID-19 vaccine works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus. This protection is important to you and the community.

Why should you get vaccinated? It protects those around you. Although some people only get a mild illness, others have severe illness, long term health problems and death. There is no way of knowing how it will affect you. We all have a moral obligation not to bring illness and death upon others. And we all want this pandemic to end and go back to some level of our normal lives. COVID-19 vaccines in the US have been shown to be effective in preventing COVID-19.

The authorized vaccines to date have gone through clinical trials and proven to be effective and safe. Early data has shown, if you do get COVID-19, it will prevent serious illness and death. The vaccine will boost your immunity. Although reinfection is not common, it has occurred. If you have had COVID, you should still get vaccinated. The vaccine will not give you COVID-19 but you may experience side effects such as fever, headache, fatigue and body aches.

The COVID-19 vaccine is key to stopping the spread. The goal is herd immunity. This means enough people in a community are protected from getting COVID-19 because they have had the disease or have been vaccinated. Until we are all vaccinated, it is important to continue all previous precautions.

As this is written, plans are in process to make the vaccine easier to access in our community. This information will be updated and available at our website: covid19 and in this paper. Westfield’s situation is not unique. Most other cities and towns in the area still have not received any vaccine from the state. Right now healthcare workers and those over 75 are eligible. To find out if you are eligible check vaccine.

Dedicated health department members who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic are: Debra Mulvenna RN, Assistant Director Evelyn Bristol RN, Steve Cipriani, Health Inspector Thomas Hibert, Health Inspector Cheryl McMordie, Office Manager Crystal Dugay, Kathi Cotugno, CORE coordinator

Other Board Members: Margaret Doody, Stan Strzempko MD

WE KEEP WORKING TO KEEP YOU SAFE Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Avoid gatherings. Stay home. Save lives.

Look for us in next Saturday’s edition.


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