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Vaccine cannot get here soon enough for me

We expect by Monday afternoon the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine will have arrived at Merit Health Natchez and hospital employees and other health care providers will be vaccinated.

Dr. Lee England and Dr. Blane Mire will be among the first to receive the vaccine on Monday afternoon.

Many among the Natchez medical community have proven to be true leaders during this time of COVID.

Mire and his partners at Internal Medicine Associates — Dr. Kenneth Stubbs and Dr. Ed Daly — were early in calling attention to the virus in Natchez and Adams County and in urging all Miss-Lou residents to take precautions to prevent spreading and getting the virus.

Mire, Stubbs and Daly, along with the help of Suzanne Steckler at Natchez Pathology, fashioned test kits and began searching for and working with laboratories across the country to test for COVID.

As soon as more and closer labs began offering testing for COVID, they quickly set up a safe protocol for testing at Natchez After Hours, located in Doctor’s Pavilion next to the hospital.

Mire’s work in calling attention to the virus here led to several task forces, which positioned Natchez to rally forces and do a better job of educating residents and making preparations to live and do business more safely during the pandemic.

Natchez truly benefited from this work. All these things made such a tremendous difference in how our area responded and continues to respond to the virus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — the first to receive governmental approval — is being first offered to health care workers and those who are residents in nursing facilities.

It is thought it may be spring or the summer before vaccine is available for the general population. The Moderna vaccine — the one funded in part by Dolly Parton and developed in conjunction with Vanderbilt University — is expected to be approved for emergency use any time now and may shorten the wait time for the general population.

Like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna vaccine does not use the live virus itself. Instead, it uses messenger RNA to deliver a message to cells not to accept the coronavirus. That’s putting something that’s very complex in very simple terms, but that’s how I understand it works.

The moment I am eligible to take this vaccination, I will do so. The platform for this vaccine is well established. I have taken vaccinations, including the flu vaccine, for more years than I can count. At my doctor’s urging, I took the pneumonia vaccination this year, too. My only side effect has been a sore arm. I don’t like needles and am no fan of injections, but the pain lasts barely a minute and the life-saving effects of the vaccine are certainly worth it.

I want to walk freely in restaurants to dine and in small businesses to shop. I want to hug my friends again and be able to go to their homes or out to a bar and have cocktails and laugh. In short, I want my life back!

The sooner more of us receive this vaccination, the closer we are to rebuilding our economy and moving forward. I don’t know about you, but I was crushed last spring when the NCAA basketball tournament — March Madness — was canceled.

The only thing that has saved me this fall is college football, particularly my unbeaten Notre Dame Fighting Irish! (Many of you will be reading this Saturday night or Sunday, after Notre Dame plays Clemson on Saturday afternoon for the ACC championship. That unbeaten thing may have changed, but I hope not.)

Despite the conspiracy theorists, COVID is real, and while the vast majority of those who get it will survive, no one knows whose death will be hastened because of it. Almost 300,000 lives have been lost as a result of COVID this year. More than 11 million Americans have suffered varying degrees of sickness because of the virus.

Please consider getting this vaccination when it’s available to you.

Maybe enough of us will have taken the virus and the pandemic will have curtailed to the point that we can all celebrate March Madness — the greatest sporting event of all time — this year.

The one thing I know for sure is, we alone will decide how long this virus continues to plague us.

Be safe. Stay home if you can. Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands. Get the vaccination when you can.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at 601-445-3627 or email jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com.

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