Shaken by the first COVID-related death in our community, now more than ever, we want to remind all residents and visitors alike of the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States. 

Colorado is among the top ten states with ongoing transmission of COVID-19. While San Miguel County has a very high vaccination rate, in analyzing the entirety of our region, the collective remains below 50 percent fully immunized. The presence of the Delta variant adds additional need for protection as its very high rate of transmission is concerning. 

We are not finished with this pandemic. We urge all residents who have not yet been vaccinated, especially those who are at high risk of severe outcomes, to reevaluate as we are seeing a rapid rate of transmission amongst unvaccinated populations in our own community and across the Western Slope. This high rate of transmission is resulting in fluctuating capacity issues in our regional hospitals. The impact could strain on hospitals as summer visitors come to the area. The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic. It is the most effective means to protect our friends, family, neighbors, community members and visitors from the worst outcomes of COVID-19 — hospitalization or death. 

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines went through rigorous trial and approval processes before authorization in the United States. Each of these vaccines met the thorough scientific standards including results from late-stage clinical trials and methodical vetting processes required by the Food and Drug Administration. While we are still learning about this disease and its approved vaccines, we have nearly a year’s worth of data surrounding clinical trial patients supplemented by research surrounding mRNA and viral vector vaccines. 

The COVID-19 vaccines encourage the body to create copies of the spike protein found on the coronavirus’s surface. Without utilizing the virus itself, the vaccine then “teaches” the body’s immune system to fight the virus that has that specific spike protein on it. While the vaccines can have side effects, the vast majority are very short term — not serious or dangerous. The long-term side effects of getting COVID-19, on the other hand, can have potentially serious impacts on the lungs, heart and brain potentially affecting a person’s ability to breath, their energy or brain function.

Infection is preventable. The vaccines are effective. Severe outcomes of infection have been virtually eliminated by the vaccines, with more than 90 percent efficacy in reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection resulting in severe illness, hospitalization or death among people who are fully vaccinated. 

We are fortunate to have the means to protect every person now while other countries and healthcare systems around the world remain in crisis. We should not take the opportunity to receive a vaccine lightly. The resources to do so are widely available through clinics, retail pharmacies or even in the privacy of your doctor’s office. 

We urge our eligible residents to take advantage of this gift. Get vaccinated to protect your loved ones, to protect young children who cannot get a vaccine right now, and to protect your community from further loss. 

To learn more about where to find a vaccine, visit bit.ly/smcvaccine or vaccinefinder.org.