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Covid-19 Vaccination - It’s About Community

We make meals when there’s a health crisis or a new baby arrives. When a family’s house burns down, we give shelter and help construct a new one. Some Lopezians mentor school kids, others drive shuttles for seniors, and many sit on local non-profit and government boards. Now we have another way to build community - receiving COVID-19 immunizations.

“Herd immunity” is a term developed by livestock veterinarians in the 1910s. By the 1980s when I began work in public health, the phrase referred to the portion of a human population with immunity either because they’d had the disease or been vaccinated. Ideally, herd immunity causes the disease to disappear; that’s how smallpox was eradicated worldwide in 1980. I prefer the phrase “community immunity.” When enough of us are immunized against COVID-19, we protect ourselves as well as our community’s elders; people of color; and people with diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and chronic lung disorders.

When the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in January 2021, health professionals here readied themselves to administer doses. San Juan County Health and Community Services, Lopez Island Pharmacy (thank you Marge, Rick and staff), and some primary care clinics led the way. Now, pharmacies and providers on San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez (including UW Lopez Island Medical Clinic) offer COVID-19 immunizations.

During a volunteer stint at a recent clinic on Lopez that vaccinated three hundred people, I repeatedly heard comments such as:

“I was over the moon when I heard I was eligible!”
“It feels like we’re finally moving forward.”
“I don’t care if my arm is sore. I’m just grateful to get the shot.”

I hope this zeal continues as we islanders strive for community immunity. However, county childhood immunization rates suggest achieving it for COVID-19 could be challenging, especially when vaccine is approved for kids.

In 2012, the New England Journal of Medicine reported San Juan County was among the worst in the nation for vaccinating children. That year, only 28% of kindergarteners and 11% of sixth graders met school immunization requirements for diseases like chicken pox, measles, and pertussis (whooping cough). While rates have improved, the 2018-19 school year data indicated fewer than 50% of children were fully immunized.

Now, anyone over age 16 (or 18 for the Moderna vaccine) is eligible for COVID vaccine. Uncertain about whether the vaccine is right for you? Explore these reliable sources:

How Would COVID Vaccines Work in Your Body?, a one-minute YouTube video that explains how the immunization protects - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7E88xEGOaE

CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine information page - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/keythingstoknow.html?s_cid=10493:cdc%20covid%20vaccine:sem.ga:p:RG:GM:gen:PTN:FY21

CDC’s Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccine
- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fvaccines%2Fvaccine-benefits%2Ffacts.html

WA State Department of Health, COVID Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness - https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/VaccineInformation/SafetyandEffectiveness

Dear island neighbors, I’m grateful vaccines were developed so quickly and that both my husband and I are fully immunized. I hope as more people become eligible, they’ll sign up for this free, preventive measure too. After all, it’s about community.

SubjectCovid-19 Vaccination - It’s About Community
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