Please get vaccinated when it’s your turn

Ebony Hoskins, MD
Photo provided by MedStar Washington Hospital Center

This content is sponsored by MedStar Washington Hospital Center and written by Ebony Hoskins, MD.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with some unique challenges, especially when it comes to caring for cancer patients with compromised immune systems.  It probably won’t surprise you that the arrival of the vaccine was one of the most uplifting days for me and my colleagues.

Hundreds of thousands of D.C.-area residents have been vaccinated already, but the effort is underway to make sure more people around the region – and around the country get vaccinated.

I remember when I first heard the news… it was like Christmas came early!  The decision to get the vaccine was an easy one for me. Working at a hospital, I have seen firsthand how devastating this disease can be. Some of my patients became infected with the disease and it delayed their cancer treatment. Others were so sick that it inhibited their daily activities beyond the time of their initial diagnosis.

I knew the vaccine was the best chance I had to protect myself, my family and my patients. I honestly couldn’t get vaccinated fast enough.

This isn’t just about me though.

We have had to adopt a very strict visitor policy at the hospital in our efforts to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This means that many people were not able to see their family or friends while hospitalized. While we provide medical treatment, the presence of family and friends is a key component in the healing process.

This became very evident to me when I was caring for a patient this summer who was admitted to the hospital for four weeks.  She was having a tough time – in lots of pain and unable to eat and drink. She couldn’t have the support of her loved ones in person because of the pandemic.  Our doctors, nurses and support staff tried to fill that void, but it just wasn’t the same.  I often wonder if she would have had a speedier recovery if she had been able to hug a family member or watch TV with a friend while she was in the hospital.

Family and friends can help our patients during a hospital stay, but the only way we can get back to allowing visitors on a more regular basis is by getting the pandemic under control.  The vaccine is our best chance to do that!

Public attitudes toward the vaccine seem to be improving as well. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 55% of adults say they now want a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible or have already received their first dose. That’s up from 47% in January and 34% in December.

About one in five adults (22%) say they will “wait and see” how the vaccine is working for others before getting vaccinated themselves — a share that is down from 31% in January and 39% in December.

The survey was conducted Feb. 15-23, 2021, among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,874 adults ages 18 and older.

I strongly encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as you have the chance to do so.

Public health experts say it’s important to get at least 70 percent to 80 percent of the public vaccinated to reach herd immunity, when enough people will either have had the COVID-19 virus or a vaccination, to severely limit its further spread.

Trust the science. These vaccines are extremely effective.  The sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner we can start returning to a sense of normalcy.  Do it for yourselves. Do it for your family and your community.

This has been a tough year for all of us.  But there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Once enough people get vaccinated, we will be able to do the things that we may have taken for granted before: hug a friend, go to a concert, or visit a family member in the hospital.  Please, get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn.

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