One year ago, we were beginning to learn about the novel coronavirus. As we watched it rip through China and Europe, the coronavirus was already quietly circulating in this country. Little was known about the virus, but its genome had been newly sequenced, and with that knowledge, the race to create a vaccine began. Today, 28.4 million cases and 508,000 deaths later, that vaccine has been administered to more than 46 million people with results that are simply astonishing. Widespread vaccination is the best way to reduce the virus to levels low enough to allow us to return to some type of normalcy – in our classrooms and our communities. The process is simple: Everyone needs to register with the New Mexico Department of Health (online or by phone 1-855-600-3453) and get vaccinated when your turn comes up.
These vaccines are safe, and there is increasing evidence that they prevent severe cases of COVID-19 disease, death and possibly infection. New evidence has been reported just this week:
- In Scotland, 20% of the population of 5.4 million people have received the first dose of the Pfizer or Oxford vaccine. More than 8,000 people were hospitalized in Scotland with COVID-19 during the period of this study. But among those 8,000 people who were hospitalized, only 58 had been vaccinated.
- The same article reported that another study from the United Kingdom indicates that the vaccine protects against infection and not just severe illness.
- In the U.S., residents of nursing homes began receiving vaccines in late December. The New York Times reported on Feb. 25 that new coronavirus cases among nursing home residents “fell by more than 80 percent, nearly double the rate of improvement in the general population.” And more good news: Even as deaths from COVID-19 peaked this winter, deaths inside nursing homes decreased by more than 65 percent.
The vaccine supply is increasing, so today is a great day to register for your dose. Although vaccine production was low early this winter, Pfizer and Moderna are currently shipping about 14 million doses a week with plans to ship an additional 140 million doses over the next five weeks. This number should go even higher following the anticipated approval of a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. As vaccine supplies increase, the next challenge is distributing the shots to people. New Mexico has a commendable system for distribution. This week, New Mexico became the second state to vaccinate more than 20% of its population.
With safe vaccines and a strong distribution network, the next hurdle to the effectiveness of vaccines is resistance. Vaccines only work if we take them, and if you have questions about the vaccine, look for answers from reputable sources. Start with New Mexico’s Department of Health, which offers extensive information online and takes calls at 1-855-600-3453.
Some people have asked: What is the point of a vaccine? Vaccinated people might still be contagious, we do not know if they will be effective against variants, and if we can’t get back to normal, why bother? The answer is simple. We already have evidence showing vaccinated people are less likely to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19 than people who are not vaccinated. As more people get vaccinated, the levels of infection drop. When the virus finds fewer people to infect, it also has fewer opportunities to mutate into new variants. So, please, don’t think about registering for the vaccine. Just do it today (online or by phone 1-855-600-3453).
Feedback is always welcomed at President.Floros@nmsu.edu.
Be Bold. Be Kind. Be Safe.