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Health Matters by Joanne Rose

Joanne Rose is a retired nurse with 35 years of experience in public health, health promotion and protection. She lives off grid in Stephenville, on her farm with her husband Tom, and is lucky enough to be surrounded by family. Health perspectives shared in this column are meant to inspire and inform, but not to replace the advice of your regular healthcare professional.

The COVID-19 vaccines: Where are we now?

The world has transformed since the winter of 2020. We have endured and survived over 18 months of COVID 19. It has become an everyday reality of our households. As of mid-July, almost 86% of people over 12 years of age in Newfoundland and Labrador have received their first dose of a COVID vaccine and 53 % have received their second dose. These numbers are telling us that people are taking the advice of the public health experts and getting their shot. Much thanks to the fine folks who have dedicated months to making the vaccines available to as many people as possible.

So, what will this do for us? We have already seen the benefits of people being vaccinated. Our daily reports of new cases of COVID infections are low, very low. Our personal hand washing, mask wearing precautions have also certainly helped with this. So, our overall personal risk of getting COVID, having complications and being hospitalized very low. Having said that, we are not there yet. All the reports tell us that people need to have their second shot to get the most effectiveness from the vaccine. That means our province has about 240,000 more people to have dose number two. Public health is certainly advancing their plans to get those second shots done as quickly as possible. But that also means about 60,000 people who are ages 12 and over have not yet had their first dose of the vaccine.

The benefits of being fully vaccinated are being seen in areas that have low COVID 19 infections. But on the other hand, in areas that do not have good vaccination coverage the media is calling a fourth wave of the pandemic. The importance of reaching as many people as possible to offer the vaccine has never been greater.

If you are thinking about travelling freely within Canada, having your two vaccines is essential. Travel restrictions are lifting in many places. Within Canada, whether you drive or fly, there are no federal travel requirements. But there are rules for many provinces or territories. Do check on the provincial covid rules before you travel. Only Alberta and Saskatchewan have no additional requirements.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the general reluctance some people have about getting the vaccine is the perception that the recommendations are constantly changing. When the pandemic first started the restrictions on movement outside your household created a tremendous change in everyday life. Once the call was made to develop a vaccine for COVID 19, researchers and drug companies began an intensive process to respond. The outcomes are the vaccines we have available today. Despite this quick process, the vaccines were subject to rigorous review before being approved for use. For some, this has prompted all sorts of myths about the vaccine. One myth is that the vaccines are rushed and are not safe. However, Health Canada requires the vaccines to be proven by data that shows their safety, quality, and efficacy before approval. Another common myth is that the vaccine can give you COVID 19 which it cannot as it does not contain any live particles of the virus. And, how about the claim that the COVID 19 vaccine can alter DNA? The messenger RNA vaccines work by instructing the cells in the body how to make a protein to trigger the immune response. Injecting the vaccine will not interact with or change your DNA.

There are many reputable sources for getting more information about the vaccine and answering your questions. The website can direct you to many documents to assist you to make the decision to be vaccinated. It is always your choice of course. But make that choice after being well informed about the risks and benefits of doing so.

And most importantly, follow the current recommendations of public health. Wear masks and sanitize your hands when entering and leaving public spaces. Take care of yourself and others.

And stay safe!

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