Office Visit: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Office Visit: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Lee esto en EspañolBy Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D.

After nearly a year living in a pandemic, the moment we’ve been waiting for has arrived. Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans have received a COVID vaccination, and new infections seem to be diminishing. 

You may be wondering if you should get a COVID vaccine, and if so, which one you should get. There are a handful of options, including two-dose shots by Pfizer and Moderna, and a single-dose vaccine by Johnson & Johnson expected to be available soon. In my opinion, the best vaccine is whichever one you can get as soon as you’re able. I urge you to speak with your doctor to discuss what’s right for you.

I’m fully vaccinated and feeling great. I experienced some side effects after my second dose, which subsided relatively quickly. While inconvenient, the temporary side effects are minor compared to symptoms caused by COVID-19. Plus, I have peace of mind that I’m doing my part to protect others and bring an end to this pandemic.

Oklahoma is finding creative ways to scale up vaccination efforts. Health departments across the state are partnering with local churches and nonprofits to host large-scale vaccination clinics. The Oklahoma Caring Vans   are helping to inoculate age 65+ public-school teachers and staff. Thousands of tribal citizens have received their shots thanks to the efforts of Oklahoma’s tribal nations and Indian Health Service. Just recently, certain pharmacies and retail locations, like Walmart, joined the effort.

If you’re immunized, it’s important to continue precautions, as vaccines take time to reach full effectiveness. Continue proper handwashing, practice physical distancing, wear a mask when in public, and stay home if sick. These precautions not only guard against COVID, but also from other illnesses common this time of year.

If you do get sick, the last thing you want to worry about is the expense. If you’re uninsured, you may qualify for plans through the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace. A new special enrollment period is open now through May 15, and you don’t need a qualifying life event to enroll. You may qualify for a subsidy to reduce monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. This is a rare opportunity to obtain coverage outside of the traditional open enrollment period each fall.

There’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. Now, we must stay vigilant and do all we can to keep each other safe.

Dr. Joseph R. CunninghamJoseph R. Cunningham, M.D. is the president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company.

(For more Office Visit columns by Dr. Cunningham, visit The Journal Record.) 

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