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Reaching the COVID finish line

COVID-19 has been ever present in our lives for well over a year now. It has changed how we live, work, learn and play. Fortunately, COVID-19 is now a vaccine preventable disease. The finish line for us is not the total elimination of COVID-19.

The finish line will be crossed when the vast majority of people are vaccinated against COVID-19. This doesn’t reduce risk to zero but it makes the risk so small that we can resume pre-pandemic activities. This is what vaccines do – they prevent diseases from developing.

COVID-19 is an infection caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus. While the COVID-19 vaccine cannot prevent us from coming into contact with the virus, the vaccine stimulates our body’s natural immune system to fight off the virus so that if we come into contact with it, we won’t develop a severe COVID-19 infection and we won’t have enough of the virus in us to spread it to others. COVID-19 vaccination has nearly eliminated serious illness, hospitalization and death in those who are fully vaccinated. Those who are fully vaccinated probably won’t even contract a mild version of COVID-19 or pass it to others. If you’re vaccinated, COVID-19 poses only a tiny risk to you and you pose only a tiny risk to others.

We are currently seeing increased infections in people who are not fully vaccinated and with that, increased spread to others who are not fully vaccinated.

Increased infections mean increased serious illness, hospitalizations and even deaths among those who are not fully vaccinated. This is what viruses do – they cause diseases.

We are well on our way to the finish line but need to dig deep to get there. To get across the finish line, more people have to get vaccinated. Vaccination has social and economic perks in addition to health benefits.

Per the CDC, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic. You can:

¯ Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age.

¯ Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness.

¯ Travel domestically without a pre-or post-travel test.

¯ Travel domestically without quarantining after travel.

¯ Be identified as a close contact to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and not have to quarantine.

After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public spaces –like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces — until we know more.

Until about 75% of our population is fully vaccinated, we will need to continue to do this. Please remember that it takes about 2 weeks for our bodies to develop immunity after a vaccination so people are not considered fully vaccinated until 2 weeks after the final dose in a COVID-19 vaccine series. For every first dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, the second dose must be the same and to ensure that happens, second doses are specially allocated to coincide with first doses.

Basically, for every first dose of vaccine that is administered, a second dose is automatically shipped to the vaccine provider.

You can develop COVID-19 if you have started, but not finished the vaccination series. Visit https://chqgov.comor call 1-866-604-6789 for information on vaccination clinics in Chautauqua County.

If there ever was a community cause to rally behind, this is it. Please do your part, get vaccinated.

Christine Schuyler is public health director for Chautauqua County.

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