There’s plenty of good news when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinators have ample vaccine supply, which wasn’t the case just a few short weeks ago. All individuals ages 16 and older are eligible for vaccination in Wisconsin and Michigan, and every day we add to the number and percentage of people who are partially or fully vaccinated.

But the best news of all about the COVID-19 vaccine? Its ability to provide excellent protection against serious illness and death from the virus. It’s safe, it’s effective and it’s widely available—yet we know there are people who are still on the fence.

It may help to address some of the reasons folks remain hesitant. Perhaps you’re worried about side effects? Serious side effects are extremely rare. You’ll likely have a sore arm and you may feel rundown or have some flu-like symptoms after the shot—but these generally pass relatively quickly and they are certainly preferable to landing yourself in the hospital with COVID.

Another unfortunate source of hesitancy about the vaccine is online misinformation. This is problematic because unreliable sources of info can look credible—and spread like wildfire. Your best bet if you have questions is to speak with your healthcare provider or seek out reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Food and Drug Administration. At Bellin, we even offer a 24-7 COVID-19 hotline at 920-445-7313. You can call to get your questions answered or schedule your vaccine (scheduling is also available at MyBellinHealth.org).

For some people, it’s a convenience thing. It may have been tough to get an appointment early on, so maybe you stopped trying. As mentioned earlier, appointment availability has greatly improved, including in our area—so whether it’s with Bellin, another health system, or a pharmacy that’s offering vaccines, you should be able to schedule your appointment with no problem. And the price is right! There is no cost for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Finally, maybe you’re just not that worried about COVID, perhaps because you’re young and healthy or just don’t think it’s a big issue. But COVID continues to spread in our communities, and severe (and even deadly) cases can strike anyone at any time. Even if you don’t end up seriously ill or hospitalized, you could end up with what’s called long COVID—a condition in which symptoms last for weeks or months after active infection. It’s simply not worth the risk, especially when we have a vaccine that’s readily available at no cost.

I’ve been vaccinated, and while I’m still careful when it comes to COVID, it’s good to know I can now enjoy more activities worry-free. I encourage my patients to get the shot, and I certainly hope you will, too. Let’s work together to end COVID.

To contact Lisa Cook, FNP-C, Bellin Health Marinette, people may call 715-735-5225.