Back up, mask up and get your shot

It was almost exactly a year ago that COVID-19 started to have a direct effect on our community. Now, one looooooong year later, it’s almost hard to imagine a time when we didn’t know COVID-19 existed; when people say “corona” or “COVID Time” or any other of the numerous ways people refer to the virus and its effects, we all know exactly what they mean. The impact of the pandemic on our lives, our activities, and our freedom has affected us all. And the responsibility to end the pandemic belongs to all of us as well. Now, as a community, we have a new tool to help us do just that—the COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccination is one of the strongest tools we can use to fight this pandemic together. We ask you to join us in protecting yourself, your family and friends, and your community by getting vaccinated. In addition to social distancing and masking (the routines that my kids so readily adopted this school year, captured in the now-common refrain “Back Up and Mask Up!”), vaccination adds an important layer of protection. Here are some things you should know about the COVID-19 vaccine:

n All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States are very effective at preventing the disease.

n The most common side effects are pain in the arm where you got the shot, feeling tired, headache, body aches, chills, and fever, and these pass quickly (in a day or two)

n Stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools we have available—wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with you, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, washing your hands frequently, and getting vaccinated.

If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit CDC’s FAQs web page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html.

We want everyone in our community to be safe and get back to the simple pleasures of human interaction: shaking hands with our colleagues and neighbors, hugging our families and friends, kissing our loved ones. We all play a part in this effort, and you are key. Please sign up to get your COVID-19 vaccination at the earliest opportunity.

For Columbia County residents, the Columbia County Department of Health has a dedicated telephone number for those inquiring on their vaccination options: 518-697-5560. This phone line provides general info about vaccine availability in Columbia County and is active 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It also has a webpage dedicated to information about the vaccine at https://www.columbiacountynyhealth.com/news/new-covid-19-vaccine-information/.

For Greene County residents, the Greene County Public Health Department has collaborated with the Emergency Operations Center to host its own call center, which can be reached at 518-635-5165. Greene County also has a webpage dedicated to vaccine information at https://www.greenegovernment.com/covid-19-prevention-testing-treatment/covid-19-vaccines?CB=9182

Another great resource is the Capital Region Vaccine Network page found at https://www.amc.edu/capitalregionvax/. This page is especially helpful for those individuals who are interested in seeing a list of all the vaccination options, including local health departments, pharmacies and the state-run mass vaccination sites, all in one place.

Finally, residents of both counties are welcome to contact the Healthcare Consortium at 518-822-9600, which has staff on hand to answer inquiries and assist those who lack internet and/or computer access with registering for the vaccine and even scheduling appointments when possible. As you might imagine, the most common question we here is “When can I get the vaccine?” Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out to specific groups in phases defined by the New York State Department of Health. New York State sets the priorities and each week tells the counties what target group to vaccinate with the very small quantities it receives. There is not yet enough vaccine for everyone so everyone must have patience, as it will likely take a few months to vaccinate all currently eligible people. Happily, it seems like more vaccine doses are becoming available every week, and the momentum of the vaccine program is building. If we all remain vigilant about the simple yet effective strategies of hand-washing, social distancing and masking in the meantime, and then getting vaccinated when we can, we WILL get through and past the pandemic. Let’s all do our part: Back Up, Mask Up, and Get Our Shots!

The Healthcare Consortium is a local charitable organization with a mission of improving access to healthcare and supporting the health and well-being of the residents in our rural community. The agency is located at 325 Columbia St. in Hudson. For more information: visit www.columbiahealthnet.org or call 518-822-8820.

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