Recently, the FDA gave full approval of the Pfizer Vaccine, with approval of the Moderna and J & J vaccine to follow. This removes the Pfizer Vaccine from the emergency use classification to full approval classification as all other FDA approved medications.

Ask any emergency room or ICU physician about the effects of COVID-19 and you will hear heartbreaking stories. And, for more than 13,000 families who have suffered the loss of a loved one in Tennessee, those stories are tragic. After talking with healthcare professionals, the common response from them is that such suffering can be best prevented with the vaccine.

As a pharmacist, I spent more than four decades helping patients improve their health. One of the most important parts of my job was the one-on-one contact with patients. I, or another pharmacist, counseled every individual on each new prescription. We wanted to ensure that each patient was properly educated and understood their medication’s effects and the importance of taking it properly.

One-on-one patient education is also a key factor in helping individuals with their decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. I highly recommend that those who have not been vaccinated get the most accurate information from their health-care professionals. I believe that once Tennesseans are counseled regarding the facts, the vast majority will realize that it is the best tool we have to help ensure families will not suffer heartbreak due to COVID.

Many people have been hesitant regarding the efficacy of the vaccines. Much misinformation has been circulated in a highly-politicized environment. This is very unfortunate as this virus does not discern between conservatives and liberals, or among Republicans, Democrats, or independents. We should all be pulling together in our efforts to stem its effects.

With more than 360 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 5 billion doses worldwide, we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19. This is evident by the facts as reported by Tennessee’s acute care hospitals for May, June and July, 2021. Those statistics include:

Approximately 90% of new cases are the unvaccinated.

88 to 94% of hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated

94-96% of COVID deaths are among the unvaccinated

Compare the rate of infection to the very rare instance of severe side effects from the vaccine.

Increased vaccinations will not only reduce the spread of the virus, but also curb the difficult toll it is taking on our health-care system, which is currently overwhelmed. Due to the recent Delta variant surge, hospitalizations are up 900% in the greater Nashville area over the last six weeks. This sharp increase does not just impact those who have contracted the virus. It affects everyone who needs emergency care, whether it is a heart attack, injuries from an automobile accident, stroke, or a host of other critical health-care conditions that need urgent attention in our hospitals. In addition, our critical health-care workers are also experiencing extreme fatigue, resulting in hospital staffing shortages.

It is especially important that our health-care workers and direct-care employees are vaccinated, Those who work with vulnerable citizens, including unvaccinated children, immunocompromised or sick patients, must be especially careful of spreading the virus to those entrusted to their care.

As a pharmacist, it was very important to me that all of our employees who had contact with patients had their flu vaccinations to keep both them and our customers safe. My analysis of the physician community is an overwhelming support of these vaccines.

We are in this pandemic together as a community. Vaccination is the primary way to protect the health of our citizens, keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and to put the pandemic behind us. The health and safety of our families, our state, and our nation depend on it. I urge everyone who is unvaccinated to talk with your health-care professionals about getting the vaccine.

Finally, you will again see me wear a mask in order to protect my friends and neighbors in indoor group settings. I hope you will join me in protecting our community by being vaccinated and wearing a mask.

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