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Health officer addresses vaccination question

MORGANTOWN — Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination will not prevent you from getting COVID-19.

Despite months of talk about population vaccination percentages and returning to a semblance of normalcy post-poke, the latest talking points surrounding vaccines have shifted somewhat — from preventing contraction of the virus, to surviving it.

“It doesn’t prevent you from getting it, but it will certainly keep your symptoms more mild, hopefully keep you out of the hospital and hopefully keep you alive,” County Health Officer Dr. Lee Smith said, when asked to address some of the common questions about the vaccines. “The benefits of getting vaccinated is a reduction of death, a reduction of hospitalization, and the stresses that puts on our resources locally.”

Smith said it remains a mystery why some have strong immunity against the virus and others don’t. While he said those who have recovered from the illness and then gotten vaccinated have the strongest defense, the vaccines give everyone better odds.

“This is not a vaccine that sterilizes the body from COVID. It’s not like giving you a treatment for rabies that gets rid of it,”  Smith said. “We will give you a vaccine, allow your body to manufacture its own antibodies and then if you see that virus again, you got a head start on getting better.”

Smith said the number of mutations, like the currently circulating Delta variant, is determined by the number of cases. Those mutations, he explained, are fueling infection in the vaccinated as the bolstered antibodies no longer recognize the virus.

While it’s true being vaccinated won’t necessarily prevent someone from getting sick, it definitely helps.

Smith said the majority of people contracting the illness right now are unvaccinated.

“Some people have a series of reasons that I’m not going to be able to rationally convince them with science and logic that this is correct. They’re going to have their opinion, and I’m just not going to spend a lot of time. Make it available to them, but they’ve made up their mind,” he said, noting others have taken a wait-and-see approach.

“You know, there’s almost 400M people vaccinated. I think those are pretty good numbers that people aren’t dropping over from the COVID vaccine. So what more can we do?”

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