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Art Kellermann, Mark D. Townsend and Jake O'Shea column: Do your part — get vaccinated
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Defeating COVID

Art Kellermann, Mark D. Townsend and Jake O'Shea column: Do your part — get vaccinated

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By Art Kellermann, Mark D. Townsend and Jake O’Shea

Virginia’s hospitals want you and our commonwealth to be protected from the delta variant.

The heroes on our health care teams have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for 18 long months. The decrease in cases we saw this spring provided a needed reprieve, but now, with the arrival of the delta variant, we are witnessing another surge.

The delta variant is distinctly different from last year’s virus in a worrisome way. We have seen it spread throughout Virginia, especially where vaccination is low. Virginia Department of Health data shows that nearly every case of COVID-19 is caused by the delta variant. It is sending an alarming number of young, healthy Virginians to the hospital, including children and pregnant women. Some are becoming severely ill, requiring ventilators.

Sadly, this surge is tragically and unnecessarily costing many lives.

We say unnecessarily because we now have a tool we didn’t have last year: safe and highly effective vaccines that provide tremendous protection against COVID-19, including the delta variant. In addition, these vaccines greatly reduce your risk of hospitalization and death in those rare cases in which you develop a “breakthrough” infection.

Currently, around 57% of our commonwealth’s population is fully vaccinated. That’s not enough to curb another wave of COVID-19 this fall. Our moment to fight back against the virus is now. This battle can be won if we each do our part by getting the vaccine.

Here are facts about vaccination that you should know:

  • Nationwide, the vast majority of patients hospitalized with the delta variant are the unvaccinated. If you refuse to be vaccinated, you are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 than someone who is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • If you have already had COVID-19, the CDC recommends you still get vaccinated. Prior infection might not protect you against other variants, such as delta.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, the CDC recommends you get vaccinated. A recent study of more than 850,000 laboring patients shows that expectant mothers who have COVID-19 when they go through childbirth are approximately 15 times more likely to be put on a ventilator or, tragically, to die. Vaccination is the best protection you have right now if you’re pregnant.
  • COVID-19 vaccine development has not been rushed through. For each of the vaccines, scientists conducted extensive randomized controlled trials — the gold standard in determining the safety and effectiveness of every life-saving drug.

On behalf of the hospitals of Richmond, we urge you to get your own shot and vaccinate your children age 12 and older. Go to Vaccinate Virginia (vaccinate.virginia.gov) to find a vaccine location near you. Come in for your vaccine and head home knowing you’ve done your part. Do it for yourself, your family and your community.

If you’ve already been vaccinated, you still have an important job to do — share your story. Tell others why you chose the vaccine and the security you feel knowing you are protected. If you’re a community leader — a pastor, teacher or business owner — speak out and encourage others to join you in getting vaccinated. If you’re an employer, you can help by encouraging your employees to get vaccinated and allowing them time off for their appointments.

If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor for accurate information. Too much misinformation is on the internet. Trust your physicians.

Richmond, this is our moment. Together, we can defeat the coronavirus and the delta variant. Science brought us this far by delivering safe, effective vaccines. You will take us over the finish line by getting your shot and helping others get theirs.

Art Kellermann, M.D., is senior vice president of VCU Health Sciences and CEO of VCU Health System. Contact him at: vcuhealthceo@vcuhealth.org

Mark D. Townsend, M.D., is the chief clinical officer for the Bon Secours Richmond market. Contact him at: Mark_Townsend@BSMHealth.org

Jake O’Shea, M.D., is the chief medical officer for HCA Healthcare’s Capital Division, which includes Virginia. Contact him at: Jeremiah.OShea@hcahealthcare.com

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