St. George, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/04/2021 --Last year at this time, the citizens of the U.S. along with much of the rest of the world -- were in the throes of quarantines, watching climbing COVID-19 case numbers, and fighting a lot of confusion, contention, and fear.
While neither the contention nor the confusion has dissipated entirely and neither is the pandemic over -- the world is clearly making progress in the COVID-19 battle.
Experts like David Blodgett, MD, health officer for Southwest Utah Public Health Department, say there is one reason we're getting closer to seeing COVID-19 in the rearview mirror: Vaccines.
"The single best way to stay out of the hospital and avoid the effects of this disease is to get vaccinated," Dr. Blodgett said.
So far, the vaccination numbers in his part of Utah show that roughly 64 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. While that's not as high as Dr. Blodgett and others would like to see, it does include 85 percent of those ages 75 and older — which has been determined as the highest risk age group.
"The 85 percent number is good, but that means 15 percent of those at greatest risk are not vaccinated," Dr. Blodgett said.
Between the health department and a wide range of pharmacies, healthcare providers, clinics, and others offering the vaccine — many of which can be located by using www.vaccines.gov — accessibility simply isn't a hurdle any more.
"Whatever hour of the day or night that you want to get vaccinated, someone is offering it," Dr. Blodgett said, then added with a chuckle, "OK, maybe not all night, but almost."
The challenge now, Dr. Blodgett said, is to wade through some of the contradictory, and often inaccurate messaging swirling around everything related to COVID-19 cases and vaccines and get the word out about the efficacy of receiving the vaccine.
"We're happy to talk to people about their concerns and we have answers to vaccine related questions on our web site," Dr. Blodgett said. "All we can do is continue to be consistent and provide correct information for people. We want to be a trustworthy source for information on this situation."
Dr. Blodgett said it is extremely unfortunate that so much of the information available nationally has a political tie-in.
"The fact that we've vaccinated 65 percent of people is really an accomplishment," Dr. Blodgett said. "We're trying to be a voice of reason down the middle."
When it comes to vaccines, perfection is hard to come by. But Dr. Blodgett said so far, "this vaccine is almost perfect at keeping people out of the hospital and keeping them from dying."
Indeed, a new analysis by the Associated Press based on CDC data found more than 99 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. are unvaccinated.
"These new findings confirm what we've known for a while now: the vaccines work and help protect people," said Tamara Sheffield, MD, Intermountain Healthcare Community Health medical director. "They work remarkably well to not only prevent infection from COVID-19, but they also are very effective at preventing hospitalization and death."
"Our messaging is always about how to take control of your health and your life," Dr. Blodgett said. "Vaccines are about protecting yourself and protecting others… In the realm of things that have been most effective and helpful in human history, vaccines rank up there as among the most effective things that can be done to improve quality and quantity of life."
"This is one of those few community activities that we can do that benefits everyone," he said.
For answers to COVID-19 questions or to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, log onto www.swuhealth.org/covid or www.intermountainhealthcare.org/covid.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.