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Better to be Safe than Sorry

By Kathy Hubbard

As I’m writing this, it’s Sunday, February 21, around 1 p.m. My arm hurts, but I was warned that it was going to. Jody Thoreson, a retired nurse at Bonner General Health recruited for the marathon day of vaccinations that Caroline Lobsinger wrote about this morning, said that her arm hurt the worst the first night, and she was right. I slept fitfully, waking up every time I turned over and rubbed my arm against the sheets. Are you saying, “Aww?”

Before I knew I would get my vaccine yesterday, I scheduled to write about COVID-19 in this week’s column. It seemed to me that there is a lot of buzz of dubious information being disseminated. My impression has been and will always be that we may not have the answers in the back of the book about the effectiveness of advised protocols, but as my mother always said, ”It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

You hear people saying they don’t need to wear masks; they don’t do any good. You hear people saying that they won’t get the vaccine because they don’t think it’s safe. You hear people say that even if they get sick, they won’t go to the hospital.

Lora Whalen, District Director of Panhandle Health, explained at last week’s Geezer Forum that of the almost 28 million cases in the U.S. to date, roughly 80 percent would have mild symptoms, 20 percent will feel sick, and of that 20 percent five percent will need to go to the hospital for oxygen.

“Of that five percent, one to two percent will need to go to ICU for critical care,” she said. With case numbers so high, you can extrapolate the impact on our local hospitals.

For those of you who like to compare COVID-19 to the regular flu, in 2019, there were an estimated 35.5 million people infected with 34,200 deaths. Check that against 27,882,557 cases of COVID-19 with 496,112 deaths so far.

I’m a proponent of wearing masks. I don’t find it annoying. I don’t see it as an infringement on my freedoms and rights. I put on my mask to help stop the spread of this deadly infection. And, I’m happy to report the only side effect has been that I haven’t caught a cold or flu this year.

And that’s not just my observation. Dr. Vince Huntsberger, ER physician at BGH, also at the Geezer Forum last week, said that flu cases had been reduced substantially this year.

“Social distancing, handwashing, mask-wearing, Plexiglas barriers, and kids out of school have had a dramatic impact on reducing the flu this past year,” he said. “And, it’s not just the flu, it’s other respiratory diseases as well. This is worldwide, not just here.”

I’m a proponent of getting vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible. I’ll also caution you to be patient as many of us want the vaccine, and allocations are based on population. Don’t let the evening news discourage you. Bonner General Health and Panhandle Health District are doing all they can to obtain as many doses of vaccines as possible, and they’re doing their best at getting them distributed. Believe me when I tell you the hospital alone is getting between 100 to 200 vaccine-related calls every hour. I don’t want to know how many PHD gets.

I also want to say that the science of containing this virus is a moving target. What the professionals thought they knew six months ago is different than what we know today and probably a far cry from what we’ll know in five years.

The efficacy of the vaccines appears to be significant at around 95 percent. Does that mean that five percent of us will get sick? Who knows right now? We also don’t know how long we’ll be protected.

Dr. Huntsberger said that it might be that we’ll need booster shots every year, just like we do with the flu vaccine. But, knowing that things might change didn’t stop me from getting the vaccine, and I hope it doesn’t stop you.

Let’s continue to follow the experts’ advice and remember that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. That’s what my mother said right after, “Better to be safe than sorry!”

Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.




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