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AS WE SEE IT: Why you should take the COVID vaccine

With Kentucky’s total number of COVID-19 cases surpassing 200,000 and the number of deaths in the state exceeding 2,000 last week, news from the Kentucky Office of Rural Health outlining plans for rolling out the initial round of COVID-19 vaccinations couldn’t be any more welcome. 

Governor Andy Beshear announced on Thursday that frontline healthcare workers at 11 hospitals will be among the first Kentuckians to receive those initial vaccine dosages, which are expected to arrive sometime this month and possibly as early as next week. The Commonwealth expects to receive around 38,000 doses of the vaccine in the first set of shipments, with the governor’s office reporting that about two-thirds of those will be reserved for nursing home staff and residents. The remaining doses – 12,675 – will be spread across health care staff at the 11 hospitals across the state. Pikeville Medical Center’s 975 doses are the closest those first round of vaccines will come to Carter County, unless local nursing homes are chosen to receive some of the remaining 25,325 doses earmarked for those facilities.

After healthcare workers, EMS workers and educators will be the next groups to be prioritized for receiving the vaccine when another batch is released. 

Eventually, though, additional doses will be manufactured and distributed, and made available to everyone. When they are, we urge every healthy and able-bodied Kentuckian to seriously consider being vaccinated against the coronavirus. Why, you may ask, should you get the vaccine if you’re already relatively healthy and more likely to survive the virus than those in vulnerable populations, like the elderly and immunocompromised? 

After all, for most people the coronavirus causes only mild to moderate symptoms that clear up within a week or two. For some folks there are no symptoms at all. 

The answer to that, like with masks, is to protect those vulnerable people around you. Like with any vaccine there will be some who are unable to take the COVID-19 vaccine for various reasons. Those people who can’t take vaccines tend to be in those vulnerable populations; immunocompromised individuals, or those with other underlying health problems. 

There will likely be some side effects associated with any of the three vaccines currently undergoing trials from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. These can include mild symptoms as the body begins an inflammatory reaction to the vaccine and creates the antibodies that will protect you from future exposure to the virus. 

This doesn’t mean you are catching the virus from the vaccine; which health experts say is biologically impossible. It simply means the vaccine is working as it’s intended to. In the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines living or dead virus isn’t used at all. Instead messenger RNA is used to create the spike protein that gives coronavirus its name, so that the body can react to destroy the spikes and – if exposed – the virus. The AstraZeneca vaccine uses another virus, not COVID-19, to create the same reaction to spike protein that the messenger RNA does in the other two vaccines, without exposing the body to a weakened or inactive virus the way traditional vaccines do. 

By all accounts the vaccines are all perfectly safe, even if they can create some side effects that resemble illness for a day or two in some individuals.

We understand any trepidation about a new vaccine, especially one brought to market so quickly. But health experts agree that these vaccines are likely to be effective and safe, and once they pass FDA approval are the best way to slow the spread of a virus that has overwhelmed our healthcare systems, caused death and heart ache for families locally and across the state, and had a significant impact on the economy and small businesses. 

For the sake of your friends, neighbors, and family, we urge you to seriously consider being vaccinated once the FDA approvals are achieved and sufficient dosages are available for the vaccination of the general public. With deaths and infection reaching new record levels across Kentucky, it may be the best thing you can do for the people you love. 

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