By Patricia Jones, Task Force on Poverty
More than half a million Americans, including 186 Panhandle residents, have died of COVID-19 in the last year. Thankfully the COVID-19 vaccination will greatly reduce your risk of getting the virus, and you don’t have to pay anything to receive it.
Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools we have available. We have all been asked to wear masks and practice social distancing to help reduce the chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. These measures are not enough to end the coronavirus pandemic. Now it is time for Americans to be vaccinated. There are three vaccines available, and all three are safe and effective.
Vaccines work with your immune system, so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. If you do get sick from COVID-19, it will be a much milder case. As of March 8, 13,958 or 21.3% of Panhandle adults have received the COVID vaccine.
Many people say they will not get the vaccine because there are side effects. That is true, but these side effects indicate the vaccine is working. Most of the reactions are temporary and pass within a few days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since you may feel under the weather, experts recommend not making any big plans for a few days after you get a dose of the vaccine. Realize that most people don’t have any side effects at all.
The most commonly reported side effects are pain and swelling at the injection site and fatigue. There have been some reports of headache, chills, low fever, muscle and joint pain, nausea, or swollen lymph nodes. The CDC advises against the use of pain relievers before vaccination. But if you are having side effects afterwards you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Nebraskans over the age of 18 are encouraged to register now for their COVID vaccine at vaccinate.ne.gov or by calling 833-998-2275 or 531-249-1873. Vaccine phases are directed by state and federal COVID Vaccine Programs and doses are going to the most vulnerable first.
When you register, you will fill out a short questionnaire which sorts you into a group or phase. When it is time for the group or phase to schedule, a notification email will be sent for you to schedule an appointment, or a local vaccine administrator will call individuals to schedule appointments.
For more information, go to Panhandle Public Health District at www.pphd.org for the latest local updates. Box Butte General Hospital has a vaccine hotline (308-761-3097) for questions or assistance in scheduling vaccine appointments. Your primary care provider or local pharmacy can also answer questions and help direct you to vaccine providers.
Even though the risk dial has been dropping, we aren’t out of the woods yet. During the first week in March there were 71 new cases in the Panhandle, including three in Box Butte County. Remember to protect yourself by wearing face coverings and avoiding the 3 C’s (Crowded spaces, Close contact, and Confined Spaces).
Sign up for the COVID vaccine. It’s free!