We’ve all been busy this Summer and we’re all enjoying the freedom from COVID but there’s one thing Oklahoma needs you to not forget: Get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
COVID-19 vaccines- whether it’s Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J- are safe, effective, and free. America’s three COVID vaccines were bolstered by American innovation, developed with the help of America’s brightest scientists, and distributed with the help and strength of America’s workforce.
While vaccine research was decades in the making, under the leadership of the Trump Administration, Operation Warp Speed established important public-private partnerships which ensured COVID-19 vaccines were both timely and safe.
No corners were cut and vaccine trials were large and public. Just as has been accomplished throughout history, scientists and doctors have built upon cutting edge innovation and science to deliver lifesaving antidotes to protect us from the world’s deadliest viruses and diseases. From smallpox to polio to tetanus, vaccines, coupled with citizens undertaking the responsibility to defeat the virus, have ended pandemics of past and continue to keep our communities safe and healthy.
We’ve come a long way since the height of the pandemic, but unfortunately, cases are dramatically increasing again in Oklahoma and across the country due to the COVID-19 Delta variant and lack of vaccine participation. We have a tool, we have a vaccine that can defeat this virus, and I appeal to every Oklahoman- and American- to join in our war-like effort to bring an end to this pandemic once and for all.
Across the United States, COVID hot spots are emerging and, as evidence suggests, the spread of COVID-19 is happening far quicker in unvaccinated communities. The U.S. is now averaging more than 26,000 new COVID cases per day, with hospitalizations and deaths increasing by the day.
Across states like Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas, daily cases have more than doubled compared to two weeks ago.
On a now daily basis, the Oklahoma State Health Department is reporting an increase in new COVID cases. Just last week, Oklahoma’s 7-day average of daily COVID cases spiked over 700 for the first time in months.
And just as we’ve seen the number of cases tick up, so have hospitalizations. Oklahoma’s hospitalization rate for COVID is up 253% since June 29th.
Should hospitalizations continue, there will be a significant strain on both rural and urban hospitals- something our health care professionals lived through once during the height of the pandemic and shouldn’t have to live through again.
Some may ask, “Why do I need to get vaccinated? I feel healthy and my risk is low”. Whether you’re young or old, healthy or infirm, rural or urban, being fully vaccinated helps stops the spread of COVID-19 and protects you and those in your community from the complications of COVID.
It’s more important now than ever, with the rise of the dangerously transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant, which now accounts for 72% of new COVID cases in Oklahoma and more than 80% of new cases in the U.S.
The good news is that being fully vaccinated decreases your chances of contracting the coronavirus and helps stop the spread of the virus- including the Delta and U.K. variants. Out of more than 1.5 million fully vaccinated Oklahomans, less than 1% have been infected by COVID after getting their vaccines.
There will be breakthrough cases. But these “breakthrough” cases can be reduced- it will take a community effort. The more people who are vaccinated, the fewer people, including our loved ones, COVID-19 can infect.
Being fully vaccinated decreases your chances of hospitalization- in fact only 0.006% of Oklahomans have been hospitalized after being fully vaccinated.
Being fully vaccinated also helps stop the spread of COVID-19, and your vaccination can help protect your friends and family from getting sick.
Right now, as cases begin to surge again, Oklahoma’s doctors and health officials are urging Oklahomans to get vaccinated- including those who have previously had COVID. Vaccine immunity and natural immunity can differ in terms of strength of the immune response or the length of time that the protection lasts. In the case of COVID-19, people who are unvaccinated are more susceptible to new COVID-19 strains, whereas people who are vaccinated are offered protection against new strains.
Oklahoma can improve its outlook and ensure we don’t retreat from normalcy later this Summer or Fall. We can take the necessary actions to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t surge again throughout our communities. All it takes is knowing the importance of being vaccinated.
We’ve all been busy. Another season of wheat harvest has come and gone. Friends and neighbors are returning from long overdue family vacations that were put on hold last year. And families are preparing for kids to return to school this Fall without the hassle of a virtual schedule. But in order to have a normal, safe, and healthy Fall, Oklahomans need to get vaccinated.
The most trusted voices we have in this fight are our local doctors, nurses, and health professionals. If you have concerns about possible side effects, talk to your doctor. Our health professionals understand the complexities of making a personal decision such as getting the COVID-19 vaccine and we can trust them to be understanding, compassionate, and factual.
So, whether you take it from me, a 61-year old grandfather, farmer, and Congressman who is fully vaccinated, or your local doctor- getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is important, and I hope you join the 1.5 million other Oklahomans who have already rolled up their sleeves and get vaccinated as soon as you can.
Frank Lucas, a Republican, represents Oklahoma 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This commentary originally appeared in the Tulsa World.