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Imagine that you are a football player. Would you ever opt not to wear your helmet because you were wearing your shoulder pads? Of course not. As a football player, you know that you need all of your protective equipment to stand up against your opponent. And just because you, individually, make a great play doesn’t mean the game is over. There is no way to win on your own. Your whole team must win together. All of the same ideas are true of the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, we have upgraded our equipment. We started with handwashing, then we moved on to distancing and masks. Most recently, we have received our most powerful weapon yet: the vaccines. But just like a football player wouldn’t discard one piece of protective equipment just because he got another one, we are going to keep all of our preventive measures in place until after the opponent is defeated.

The fact that we are keeping our masks on shouldn’t lead anyone to believe that the vaccines are anything less than game changing. If most people are vaccinated, we basically have a guaranteed win. That’s right. The vaccines are 95 percent effective. That’s remarkable.

What’s more — and we owe the New York Times’ David Leonhardt for this idea — even mild COVID-19 illness experienced during the trials was counted as a failure! In his recent article, he reported that the number of trial participants who experienced a serious case of COVID-19 was one. One. One person out of 32,000 trial participants experienced a serious case of COVID-19. In short, the vaccine is the cure, and that is worth celebrating.

You know that the win only becomes possible when the team believes in themselves and their power to succeed. Now is the time to give the rousing speech and convince those that you know are reluctant to get their vaccine. Tell them, “It will save your life. It will save the lives of your family members. If you don’t get the vaccine, you will get COVID, and COVID kills.” It is going to take all of us together praising the incredible power of the vaccine to convince the unconvinced.

We need that belief, but as every team athlete knows, we also need hard work and patience. Our vaccine supply is still very low. Scientists, manufacturers, doctors and nurses, health systems’ administrative personnel, and employees at state departments of health are all working tirelessly to increase supply, get it out to the clinics, and get it into people’s arms.

Finally, we should also know that our opponent is no slouch. It is killing 3,000 Americans a day and many more around the world. If it were a war, the COVID-19 pandemic would be the second deadliest in our nation’s history. And the virus is changing before our eyes.

So what is the game plan? Huddle up, team, and we’ll tell you.

Double down on your precautions and protective equipment. Don’t socialize with those outside your household. Wear your mask in public. As always, wash your hands.

Watch credible news sources and look for information about when you can sign up to receive your shot or check svhealthcare.org for the current info.

When you can get a vaccine, do it, immediately. That is your big play of the game.

Then stick around and continue doing your part until our team has won.

We’re are as eager as you are to see the end of COVID-19. It means being able to travel and gather freely, to see each other’s faces again, to hug the people we love. We can’t wait. We’ll get there sooner if we work together.

Robert Schwartz, MD, is a family medicine physician at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Northshire Campus and the associate medical director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians.


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