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Department: Editor's Memo

The common denominator

Public health

Editor(s): Newland, Jamesetta A. PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/01.NPR.0000757112.98829.25
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Jamesetta A. Newland
Jamesetta A. Newland:
Jamesetta A. Newland

August is National Immunization Awareness month. People across the US have been working diligently to get a majority of citizens vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination is the most effective strategy to achieve a level of control over its spread and decrease the associated morbidity and mortality. Historically, vaccines have demonstrated efficacy in eliminating highly infectious diseases and significantly reducing the incidence of other diseases. In the US, children who are considered to be fully vaccinated by 2 years of age have received vaccines for 14 infectious diseases, either singly or in combination. One goal of broad-based immunization programs is to control communicable diseases and reduce deaths. Complete eradication of an infectious disease that attacks humans is ideal but is not always possible, and has only been achieved once with the elimination of smallpox. Infectious diseases, many of which are preventable through vaccinations, continue to threaten the health and well-being of global populations.

COVID-19 vaccination goals

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. set incremental goals for COVID-19 vaccination rates when he established his administration in January 2021. An updated goal released in May specified that 70% of the US adult population would have received at least one vaccine shot by July 4, and 160 million US adults would be fully vaccinated by that date.1 I cannot report the progress toward this goal, but as of the time of publication, 67.3% of US adults 18 years or older have received at least one dose of vaccine. The initial overpowering surge of people waiting their turn to be vaccinated eventually progressed to excess vaccine doses in the US, and this continued even after the vaccine was approved for individuals younger than 16 years of age.

No place for politics

Community leaders, government officials, scientists, healthcare professionals, families, and numerous other stakeholders are experiencing major challenges with vaccine hesitancy and vaccine refusal surrounding the new COVID-19 vaccines. Common reasons are: “coronavirus infection does not exist;” “I am not vulnerable;” “the vaccine was made too fast, I don't trust the science;” “everyone has been lying to the public;” “the vaccine is poison and a way to kill my people;” and so on. “Anti-vaxxers” in the US have always been vocal and active, but their engagement in the controversy over vaccination has risen to a new level; some reactions are adversarial. Politics are influencing personal and group decisions, and the scientific facts are too often discounted. The health, safety, and well-being of the public is/should not be a political issue. Vaccine reluctance and denial are seen even among healthcare professionals and other frontline workers who have witnessed the scourge of COVID-19. People with authority must listen to the concerns of those who are hesitant and/or refuse vaccines, enlist the help of trusted individuals in the community, and be persistent and consistent in their messaging. Vaccines are safe. Vaccines save lives. The greatest weapon against COVID-19 is to vaccinate as many people as possible.

Vaccinate for others

During National Immunization Awareness Month, remember the quote from former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, “Health care is vital to all of us some of the time, but public health is vital to all of us all of the time.” Tell everyone you know, “Being vaccinated is not just about you; it is also about your community.” Share the CDC immunization schedules and COVID-19 recommendations with them.2 Healthy individuals create healthier communities.

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Jamesetta A. Newland, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, DPNAP, FAAN
Editor-in-Chief [email protected]

REFERENCES

1. The White House. FACT SHEET: President Biden to announce goal to administer at least one vaccine shot to 70% of the U.S. adult population by July 4th. 2021, May 4. www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/05/04/fact-sheet-president-biden-to-announce-goal-to-administer-at-least-one-vaccine-shot-to-70-of-the-u-s-adult-population-by-july-4th/.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccines & immunizations. 2021. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/.
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