Health

2021 – A year to forget and to remember

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2021 is coming to an end and I thought it was a good time to look back at some things we would like to forget and some things that we should remember.

We would like to forget how mired we were in the depth of the pandemic at the start of the year. We were tired of staying home, of missing our children and grandchildren, of not going to church. We also had a shining bright light that broke through the COVID-19 fog, the approval of powerful vaccines. We were encouraged as we began to get vaccine approvals, first for the older population and those at risk and then to more and more of us until a large majority of us were eligible to get vaccinated. We had hopes of 70% of us getting at least one shot by July 4th.  Our uptake of the life saving vaccines was a disappointment we would like to forget. It took us almost six months longer to finally achieve that goal with 73% of us now having received at least one shot but only 61% who are fully vaccinated. How many more lives could have been saved if we could somehow overcome our fears and doubts, followed the science and got vaccinated?

One thing I don’t want to forget is that feeling of freedom I received after I got my second Pfizer shot, knowing that in a short time I would feel comfortable to begin leaving the house. I could go shopping and later sit down in a restaurant and even return to church. I still needed to be cautious, but I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I bet each one of us can remember when we began our trip back to the outside world.

Then, something we would like to forget, the discovery of the Delta mutation. While it didn’t return us back to the darkest of days, it did cause the number of infections to soar, especially among those who hadn’t been vaccinated. Then another bright light of discovery, a booster that again greatly reduced our chances of going to the hospital and even dying.

Now we are facing another mutation, the Omicron variant, a highly contagious version of COVID-19 but maybe not as likely to send us to the hospital or kill us. The data is slim, and we’ll have wait for the facts to come out, but once again we are faced with decisions. What risks should I take, do I need to wear a mask, social distance, stay away from inside crowds, etc. It seems like we are in cycle of ups and downs, things we would like to forget and bright spots that we would like to remember.

From my point of view, how we react to the pandemic is a very personal thing. I still have friends who refuse to get vaccinated. I know of people who don’t think wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. I have other friends who are washing their hands continually, wearing a mask everywhere and venture out very infrequently. What’s the right answer? My guiding light during this pandemic is the science, coupled with my knowledge of my own health and the health of those who I might come in contact with. The risks that I am comfortable with taking certainly may be different than other people’s comfort level. My approach is to identify what I feel are reliable sources of information and follow the suggestions of those sources. This pandemic is not going away anytime soon. My opinion is that the pandemic will slowly become endemic which means we will still have the virus around but either enough of us will have been vaccinated or have had the disease that it spreads slower or a mutation will have a greatly increased infection rate but will only result in flu-like symptoms without high level of hospitalizations or deaths. Maybe the Omicron variant will begin this transition. What I do know is that the booster shot has shown great promise in protecting us from the more severe symptoms of the Omicron variant. We should know in a few weeks where we stand with this new challenge.

The one thing that I think we need to remember is that somehow, someway, we need to remember the things we learned from this pandemic and figure out ways to be better prepared for the next virus that invades our world. We at Seniors Speak Out will strive to keep you informed about what Washington is doing and ways that we can impact the policies that affect our health and our wellbeing. My hope is that 2022 will be a year that we have less to forget and more to remember.

Happy holidays and happy new year!!! I’ll take a week off and talk to you again in 2022.

Best, Thair

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