This spring our lives changed dramatically as we began to quarantine in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Months of social distancing, masking and staying home whenever possible has had a toll on us.

We all have been wondering, when will this end?

In the United States alone there have been over 20,000,000 cases of COVID-19 and we are nearing 350,000 deaths, a staggering total which has affected so many of us personally, including myself.

The COVID-19 vaccine is an encouraging development. At Stoughton Health, we have begun to vaccinate our front-line staff and they have been grateful to be amongst the first to be vaccinated. They have all done well after receiving the vaccine with only minor side effects such as a sore arm and mild headaches reported.

I am relieved to have received my first dose of the vaccine. As with many other front-line staff, I have underlying health conditions that put me at high-risk for COVID complications. Receiving the vaccine has given me peace of mind.

There are many people who are concerned about the vaccine, its safety and the speed of its development. There has been misinformation spread about the vaccine. I trust the scientific process and believe I am safer being vaccinated than not.

Many pharmaceutical companies invested significant resources into quickly developing a vaccine for COVID-19 because of the world-wide impact of the pandemic. The emergency situation warranted an emergency response but that does not mean that companies bypassed safety protocols or didn’t perform adequate testing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Emergency Use Authorizations for two COVID-19 vaccines which have been shown to be safe and effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. These data demonstrate that the known and potential benefits of this vaccine outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with the COVID-19.

If you have questions about whether or not the vaccine is the right choice for you, please contact your physician to discuss the risks and benefits.

The vaccine is an important tool in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and getting back to a more normal life. In the meantime, we must continue wearing masks, social distancing, practicing good hand washing and avoiding gatherings.

Additional information about the COVID-19 vaccine is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/.

Aaron Schwaab, M.D.

Stoughton Health Board Certified General Surgeon and Chief Medical Officer