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Barrasso: Take the coronavirus vaccine for you, your family and friends
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Barrasso: Take the coronavirus vaccine for you, your family and friends

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Vaccine

Paula McMahon prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as the mass public vaccination program gets underway Tuesday at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland.

For most of us in Wyoming, 2020 brought many challenges. As we head into 2021, we can celebrate a new year with some much-needed encouraging news: We have multiple effective vaccines for COVID-19.

During the past year, the federal government has focused on Operation Warp Speed. This is a true private-public partnership, involving America’s best scientists, business, military and health care leaders. The goal was to create and distribute a safe, potent and effective vaccine for COVID-19. That goal was achieved in record time.

This is a historic achievement. This is the quickest a vaccine has ever been developed. In terms of saving lives, this vaccine rivals the discovery of insulin or penicillin.

Two vaccines will be available nationwide before the first of the year. We expect several more to be approved next year. Doses are already being distributed across the country. We expect up to 15,000 doses in Wyoming before Jan. 1.

In the Senate, I scrutinized this process closely. I attended briefings, read the scientific reports and spoke directly with medical experts. After reviewing all of the science and results of the medical trials, I can say clearly and without hesitation: These vaccines work.

Don’t just take my word for it. Read the scientific literature yourself. There is plenty of detailed information publicly available.

For example, you will find that the vaccine from Pfizer is 95 percent effective. The clinical trials involved 44,000 volunteers. Half received the vaccine and half received a placebo. The results? Only eight people who received the vaccine contracted COVID-19. Of those eight, only one had a serious case.

The side effects were minor. The most common were injection site reactions, like a sore arm, and fatigue and headache. That’s it. These reactions can occur after any type of vaccine.

If you remain skeptical, read the information, speak with your health care provider and come to your own conclusion. As a doctor who took care of patients in Wyoming for 24 years, I’ll make my opinion clear.

My wife Bobbi and I will be taking the vaccine. We will wait our turn. The state of Wyoming has developed a detailed vaccine distribution plan. Health care workers, frontline workers and people with underlying medical conditions will be first. Once we are eligible, Bobbi and I will get the vaccine.

As a medical professional, I recognize that some people cannot take vaccines for legitimate medical reasons. The vast majority of people, can.

There is no federal mandate. People will make their own decisions. This is about personal responsibility. It’s about looking out for your spouse, your children, your parents and your grandparents. It’s about guarding against a potentially life-threatening illness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought death, isolation, suffering and hardship. Folks in nursing homes couldn’t see their loved ones. Nurses and doctors worked double shifts caring for gravely ill patients. Small business owners struggled to keep their doors open.

A vaccine is the quickest way we can return to a normal life and fully reopen our economy in Wyoming.

Finally, your COVID-19 vaccine is free. Congress passed legislation to ensure that everybody in America who wants a vaccine will receive one, at no charge, regardless of their insurance situation.

The end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight. We can beat this virus once and for all by getting the vaccine. I certainly will.

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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Martin writes: Congress is likely to pass some form of the COVID-19 relief package while the Wyoming Legislature is still in session. If the relief package includes a Medicaid provision, lawmakers could extend health insurance coverage to tens of thousands of low-income residents, and completely cover the cost for more than a decade.

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