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OPINION

Consider vaccination, heed other measures to end pandemic

The Examiner

As everyone is aware the year 2020 has been unlike any that most generations today have seen. The coronavirus continues to be an ongoing presence in our everyday lives. We thought that as the directors of the services that oversee the health and wellbeing of the residents of the city of Independence, it would be important for you to know and understand the status of our community response.

Our personnel at the Independence Fire Department, Independence Police Department, Independence Emergency Management and American Medical Response have been vigilant since days before the declaration of the public health emergency to ensure that the emergency services we provide continue to serve our community to its fullest extent. Yes, our personnel are susceptible to all of the same exposures to the virus that anyone else may have, plus those we encounter as part of our jobs. We have had personnel who have contracted the virus, but be assured that we take all of the advanced precautions with personal protective equipment.

These protections are not just for us but to provide that protection for citizens’ needs as well as the fact that we might deal with you or your family in a crisis situation. Our contingency plans have been put in place to continue our services, and while sometimes they may be reduced, we strive to continue to provide the best emergency services for our community.

The next step in containing this virus involves another tool, vaccinations. The vaccination, just as with the other risk-reduction actions we use, is not absolute, but it raises our safety to the next step. We will see that even with the vaccinations, we will continue over the next year in our current level of prevention with social distancing, hand sanitation and mask wearing.

We are all well aware that vaccinations are very controversial, but it is important at this time to start to consider thoughtfully and learn more about your options regarding vaccines. In the next few months, residents will be given the choice to vaccinate.

Planning and timing are still in process, but it is a good time for you to start the consideration for your health. We do know that the vaccine will not be readily available so it is important for you to know your position, so when the time comes you can act immediately. Each person has the ability to make that decision for themselves, but that decision should come with several considerations:

• Can I have confidence in the efficacy of the vaccine? Review professional and trusted sources such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and information www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html or Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services covidvaccine.mo.gov/

• Do I have a medical condition that would have an adverse reaction? Consult with your personal physician. As with most vaccines you might have side effects. That is most likely your body's response to build its immunity.

• Discuss your thoughts and options with those you are with the most – family, friends and co-workers. This protection is not just for you but for all of them.

Within the month, we hope to be communicating how we plan to deliver the doses effectively to our citizens. We ask that you think strongly about the vaccine and be ready to provide a decision so that we can create the most prudent and expedient plan possible.

Christina Heinen, acting health director, city of Independence

Douglas Short, fire chief, city of Independence

Brad Halsey, police chief, city of Independence

Paul Lininger, AMR operations manager – Independence branch