116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
I know what you are thinking. You are tired of coronavirus, but the virus is not tired of you! It still is spreading, and ravaging communities across the United States. Then there are the variants.
But, happily, there is good news.
Cases are down. Hospitalizations are down. And we've begun vaccinating our neighbors.
The vaccine supply is expected to improve in coming weeks, which will ensure that everyone who wants the jab can get it.
So, I can now say that there is light, albeit flickering, at the end of the tunnel. But, we have to be very careful and patient until we reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
That is why it is important not to let our guard down. Please continue to practice the basic public health guidelines: the three W's - wear face covering appropriately, watch your distance (at least 6 feet) and wash your hands. In addition, avoid crowded places.
The toll of this virus has been massive not only here in Linn County but also for our state, nation and the entire globe. While I write this, the virus has infected nearly 130 million people worldwide, and claimed nearly 3 million lives. Our country ranks No. 1 in terms of infection (30 million) and lives lost (550,000). In addition, the economic cost of the virus has been staggering.
Then there is another significant aspect of the virus - racial and ethnic disparities in infection and death - which reminds us of the inequities in the social determinants of health such as employment, housing, health care access, education, transportation and persistent systemic discrimination.
These interrelated aspects of human life are vital to public health. The virus has revealed the shame of a society and a nation: how racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and non-English speakers were disproportionally impacted by the virus. These social determinants of health put them at increased risk of contracting and dying from coronavirus. These inequities are the function of decades of government policies and practices that have systematically discriminated against people of color, specifically those who are Black, Hispanic, Native American or immigrants.
The infections and deaths among people of color are further compounded by their own preexisting health conditions (hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, etc.), occupational exposure at their jobs, lack of or inadequate sick leave policies and health insurance coverage, crowded living conditions where quarantine and isolation cannot be practiced, and profound fear over immigration status. Seriously ill people of color with COVID-19 were four times more likely to be admitted to the hospital than white people.
Therefore, hardest-hit and highest-risk populations must be able to access the vaccine. This will allow us to better inoculate communities of color, low-income, rural, non-English speaking, and immigrants. Equity should be the nucleus of our effort. Barriers to vaccine access such as transportation, language, technology and trust in providers should be considered, and that is why we are working with our partners to bring the vaccine to trusted locations for each population group.
Since December, Linn County Public Health has been helping our partners to vaccinate priority populations according to federal and state priority guidelines. So far, we have administered nearly 100,000 doses in Linn County.
On Monday, everybody in Iowa becomes eligible to get vaccinated. Please get vaccinated as soon as you become eligible.
Good news, again, is that our numbers of cases and hospitalizations are trending down, inoculation rates are going up, and if we continue to follow our mitigation strategies, we may be able to celebrate a happy Thanksgiving dinner with our loved ones.
All three vaccines approved by the FDA are safe, and there is ample evidence to prove that. Vaccines can cause adverse events but if they occur they are overwhelmingly (91 percent of the time) not serious. The most common side effects of COVID-19 vaccines observed are headache, chills, dizziness, fatigue and muscle ache. Hospitalizations and deaths are extremely rare.
Public health also is about the economy. Healthy people mean a healthy economy. One thing that we learned from this pandemic is that we need generous sick leave policies, universal child care and health care access for all. We need social change. That's the loud and clear message of the pandemic.
Pramod Dwivedi is director of Linn County Public Health. Follow him on twitter: @pdwivedi9