Our view: When vaccine is available, take advantage

Some side effects may occur, health professionals say, including fatigue and muscle aches, but they won’t last long.

Herald pull quoted, 12/11/20

A British woman this week was the first person to be vaccinated against coronavirus, marking what is hoped will be a turning point against the devastating pandemic.

Margaret Keenan, 90, received the injection Tuesday morning. Although others were vaccinated during the testing phase, Keenan is the first person who was not involved in that process to get the shot. She’ll receive another in a few weeks, since it takes two shots for the vaccine to reach its full potency. This particular vaccine, produced by the Pfizer company, is expected to be up to 95% effective, with protection beginning about 10 days after the initial dose.

Some side effects may occur, health professionals say, including fatigue and muscle aches, but they won’t last long. The Wall Street Journal reported that two people in the United Kingdom have suffered stronger responses, which may lead to tighter guidelines for people who have a history of allergic reactions.

But so far, so good. And this is a needed development, especially in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota where the virus continues to surge.

A report in the Saturday edition of the Grand Forks Herald outlined a sad case that involved an area woman’s COVID-related death. After Marlys Jacobsen, 86, died at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, her family sent a six-page letter outlining their concerns about her care in the days leading up to her death.


Altru then apologized in a statement, saying “this absolutely was not the care experience they should have had, and for that, we are extremely sorry. We have met with family members, listened as they shared their experience, and based on their feedback are working to improve how we communicate with and support families of patients battling COVID-19.”

Thus another sad story that ends in a beloved person’s death. We commend the Jacobsen family for discussing the incident, since it reminds area residents of the sometimes dire consequences that come with COVID-19, while also reminding health care systems of the need to maintain the best possible care, even during overwhelming times.

But it also portrayed troubles – or at least great concern – occurring at local hospitals as they struggle with capacity and staffing issues during the pandemic.

In November, for example, Northwood Deaconess Health Center CEO Pete Antonson worried that the state health care system was becoming so overburdened that “the balloon’s going to pop.”

This is a crisis, and it won’t subside until COVID-19 cases drastically decrease. That’s why recent mask mandates throughout North Dakota and Minnesota are important, and it’s why it will be imperative for people to take the vaccine when it becomes available.

As noted in this space before, we are not doctors, and offer no special expertise on vaccination. We do, however, trust medical professionals who stress the importance of vaccines against influenza and other illnesses. We feel the same about the coronavirus vaccine, and if medical professionals say it’s safe, we’ll take it.

We hope others do the same.

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