Patience needed as we move forward in the fight against COVID-19
It's now been a year since the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in the United States. It's a year most us have found trying. We may have canceled vacations, put off seeing family and hunkered down at home in an effort to help stop the spread of the virus.
Despite our best efforts, many have lost family or friends to the virus or suffered through the illness themselves. So, when you hear updates about the vaccine or if you are one of the lucky ones who have already been vaccinated, you are probably more than ready to "get back to normal."
My response to that is: not quite yet. Be patient.
Getting back to 'normal'
Admittedly, patience is in short supply for many right now. We are eager to get vaccinated and get on with life. But even as vaccinations ramp up, we have to remember to stay vigilant.
The truth is, our country won't be able to get back to normal until at least 80% of people are vaccinated. While we recently reached a milestone in Illinois with 1 million doses of vaccine administered so far, Illinois has a population of just over 12.6 million, and the vaccines being administered right now require two doses per person. While plans are underway to increase vaccine production and make vaccines more readily available, reaching that 80% mark is still going to take some time.
Those who have received the vaccine still can't let their guard down. It takes two to three weeks after you receive the second dose for the vaccine to become fully effective. Even if you receive a vaccine that is 95% effective, you may still be able to contract the virus and, while you may not get sick yourself, you could unknowingly pass it on to someone else. That means it is up to all of us -- vaccinated or not -- to continue to wear masks, wash our hands and practice social distancing.
You can also do your part by getting vaccinated as soon as possible. If it's not your turn yet, reach out to make sure your loved ones who are eligible for the vaccine are taking steps to receive it. That may mean going online or making a phone call to help them schedule an appointment. You can find locations where vaccines are being administered throughout Illinois at coronavirus.illinois.gov.
Unfortunately, there is misinformation out there. It saddens me to hear that there are even people who work in health care settings who say they won't get vaccinated because they do not want to get sick. The vaccine is not a live virus; you cannot get COVID from taking the vaccine. You can only help your fellow Americans by stepping up and getting vaccinated.
If you have allergies or are immunocompromised, please have a discussion with your doctor before getting the vaccine. Truthfully, though, there are very few people with legitimate reasons to not take the vaccine.
So why are some people choosing not to get vaccinated? Mostly it is out of fear. That fear often has its roots in misinformation.
Science has moved so rapidly this year. It can be hard to keep up and sort fact from fiction. The best advice is to turn to a reliable source like the Illinois coronavirus website or the Center for Disease Control site, www.cdc.gov. Remember, the sooner we all get vaccinated the sooner we can back to "normal." It will take some time, but that day will come. Be patient.
• Teri Dreher is a board-certified patient advocate. A critical care nurse for more than 30 years, she recently founded Seniors Alone Guardianship & Advocacy Services (SeniorsAlone.org), a not-for-profit organization that serves the area's senior orphans. She also is the founder of NShore Patient Advocates, www.northshorern.com. Contact her at (312) 788-2640.