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Student writer examines importance of COVID-19 vaccines for area youths

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(© Drazen – stock.adobe.com)

Last month, the COVID-19 vaccine became available to people in our area that are 16 and older.

Laura Kornegay, the health director for the Central Shenandoah Health District, recommends that anyone who can receive the COVID-19 vaccine do so, with three goals in mind:

  • preventing infection in the person being immunized.
  • decreasing the possibility that the immunized person could transmit asymptomatic disease to others, particularly those at most risk for severe complications of COVID-19 (elderly and those with chronic disease conditions).
  • contributing to a high level of vaccine in the population as a whole that will lead to “herd immunity” – protection for the population from spread of the disease due to many less susceptible hosts, which requires approximately 75 to 80 percent of large populations be fully immunized.

Karen Baer Seifert, a UVA RN who has worked with patients who are recovering from COVID, and who has been administering vaccines since January, talked about how young people are not immune to COVID.

“While rare, young people have passed away from COVID and others have developed long-term, debilitating symptoms,” Seifert said.

Even though it is rare for young people to get COVID, they should still be sure to get the vaccine because, even if they don’t have a high risk of getting COVID, that is not to say that they won’t come in contact with someone who has a serious medical condition that makes them more susceptible to the virus.

As of April 30, Seifert reported, “100,685 doses of vaccine have been administered, (and) 44,953 people have completed their dose series, so are considered fully vaccinated. In the 16-19 age group, 2,424 people have received their first dose, and 486 have received their second dose. In the 20-29 age group, 9,042 people have received their first dose, and 5,445 have received their second dose.”

All of this is great news, but we can do better, because “those that are vulnerable in our community rely on the concept of herd immunity for protection from COVID-19,” Seifert commented, “which is only possible if there aren’t enough hosts around to maintain transmission. While the COVID-19 vaccines are new, there is promising data to indicate that the Pfizer vaccine, for example, reduces viral load in vaccinated people if they do get COVID, and thus reduces transmissibility of the virus.”

For those who are worried about the side effects you might experience after receiving the vaccine, “serious side effects of COVID vaccinations are rare,” Seifert said.

“Side effects generally only last a couple of days, and include arm soreness, fatigue, fever, nausea, and chills. Some people have no side effects at all. If I had to pick between a few days of feeling cruddy, or a serious case of COVID, I pick the vaccine. We need to make decisions based on the bigger picture, not the 48 hours or so post-vaccine,” Seifert said.

Seifert’s advice to those who don’t want to get vaccinated is to “stay off of social media and find trusted and legitimate sources of information to make your decision.”

“If I have to pick between your cousin’s sister’s brother-in-law’s aunt and a trusted infectious disease doctor with years of experience and scientific evidence to back up what he/she is stating, pick the doctor. This is a global pandemic, and we have a responsibility to keep each other safe. One the best and most effective ways to do that is through vaccination. Vaccines aren’t new – this is exactly how we have managed to eradicate smallpox, polio, diphtheria, measles, and pertussis. mRNA vaccines have been researched and studied over decades,” Seifert said.

Dr. Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of Infectious Diseases and International Health and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UVA, stated, “Make sure you understand the risk of forgoing protection from a pandemic that has killed millions of people in a little over a year.”

As of a few days ago, I have received both doses of the vaccine with no side effects, other than a sore arm. It is a huge risk for you, and for others around you, if you decide not to get the vaccine, and you must realize that, if you get the virus after you have decided not to get the vaccine, no one is to blame other than yourself.

To make your appointment to get the vaccine at Augusta Health visit vaccinate.augustahealth.com. Or you can call 540-332-5122, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to make your appointment.

Hailey Benson is an 11th-grade student at Staunton Montessori School in Fishersville who is participating in an internship with Augusta Free Press.


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