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Guest column: Vaccinate and stay vigilant

by Carley C. Robertson
| January 23, 2022 7:30 AM

As we flip the calendar page to a New Year, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our health and daily lives. However, as we look toward 2022, a lot has changed, and it is important to remember that we have many more tools available now to control the virus now than we did at this time last year. Millions of people across the globe and over 545,000 Montanans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, preventing serious disease and slowing the spread of COVID in our communities. These vaccines have been a true triumph of vaccine development and its sciences. Plus, now anyone over five years is eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine, and new treatment options have been made available to those who contract the virus.

With the new, much more transmissible Omicron variant now spreading across Montana, and as cold weather keeps families indoors, we expect more individuals to get infected with the virus. We can help slow this spread, keep our loved ones safe and prevent our hospitals and our health care workers from being overstretched this winter by increasing our state's vaccination rates. The more we vaccinate, we also help decrease the spread of COVID-19 within our communities, thus helping to protect neighbors and those who are not eligible for COVID immunization.

That's why we have partnered with nine other trusted Montana health care and public health associations to launch the "Your Best Shot MT" campaign to help answer parents' vaccine questions with the goal of increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates in Montana. Through this initiative, Montana parents and guardians now have another local resource to answer their questions on the COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-17 at YourBestShotMT.com.

The availability of a vaccine has been a major step forward in our war against COVID-19. Still, it is important to be vigilant in the prevention of COVID-19 – wear your mask in appropriate areas, social distance when feasible, and wash your hands regularly. And if you do acquire COVID-19, it is important that you stay at home to protect others and communicate with your health care provider if you are at high risk for serious outcomes or start to have significant symptoms. Over the last year, the vaccine has been a breakthrough, but so have there been many medications and treatments that can help the COVID-positive individual.

The New Year brings hope. With medical advancements and continued public health interventions, I have high hope for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carley C. Robertson, M.D., is president of the Montana Medical Association.

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