EDITORIAL: Talk to the experts for COVID-19 vaccine info

Jul. 8—This board has been a strong proponent of wearing masks to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, and since effective vaccines were introduced late last year, we have advocated firmly for vaccination for all who are eligible.

Vaccines are the best way to protect oneself and others from contracting the virus and potentially suffering alone in a hospital room on a ventilator, struggling with long-term damage to organs and other effects on the body, or even dying from the disease for which there is no cure. Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do, both for oneself and for the public good.

But don't just listen to us. Listen to those who have studied and practiced medicine, those who have dedicated their careers to keeping others healthy:

—"The vaccines are safe and effective, and they prevent COVID-19 illness. They will help protect you and your family and keep your community safe. We strongly encourage everyone age 12 and older who are eligible to receive the vaccine under emergency use authorization to get vaccinated, as the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any harm. Especially with the troubling delta variant increasingly circulating, and more readily impacting younger people, the risks of being unvaccinated are far greater than any rare side effects from the vaccines. If you get COVID-19, you could get severely ill and be hospitalized or even die. Even if your infection is mild, you or your child could face long-term symptoms following COVID-19 infection such as neurological problems or diminished lung function. We recommend getting vaccinated right away if you haven't yet. It is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, your community, and to return to a more normal lifestyle safely and quickly."

That statement, released June 23, was signed by organizations representing millions of medical and health care professionals across the country, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and National Association of County and City Health Officials.

—Want input from someone more local? How about two health care professionals who live in our community and work in area hospitals?

"If you get the vaccine, you have a high percentage of being protected against the variant strains, against the original strain of COVID," Jessica Liberty, infection prevention manager for Freeman Health System, told the Globe earlier this week. And from Donna Stokes, infection prevention specialist at Mercy Hospital Joplin: "We'd still like to see a larger number of people seeking vaccinations. The more, the better, at this point."

—Still not convinced? Talk to your own doctor or health care provider; get your questions answered by someone you know and rely on to treat you when you're ill and keep you healthy when you're not.

Trust the experts.