Covid-19 ‘avoidable,’ vaccines ‘absolutely worth it,’ says Southcoast Health’s Chief Clinical Officer
With the number of covid-19 cases on the rise in Wareham and the rest of the region, Southcoast Health’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Dani Hackner wants Wareham residents to understand that the pandemic is not over.
As a physician, Hackner said his biggest concern is about individual patients — he has seen patients suffer and die from the virus “for no good reason” and said he hopes people will get vaccinated.
“I want to get the word out to all patients that it’s absolutely worth it,” Hackner said. “I don’t want to see you suffer, I don’t want to see your child suffer. I don’t want to see your relative or a neighbor suffer. It’s avoidable. In the vast majority of cases, it’s avoidable.”
Although Southcoast Health’s covid-19 tests do not distinguish between variants, Hackner said experts believe the more contagious Delta covid variant is widespread statewide based on the available data.
The variant poses concerns particularly in Wareham because many residents are not fully vaccinated and “almost all cases that we’ve seen of seriously ill covid-19 happen among the unvaccinated,” Hackner said.
The vaccination rate in Wareham hasn’t increased much in the past few weeks, and Hackner said the apparent plateau in vaccinations is a cause for concern.
“Each additional unvaccinated patient or community member poses a risk to the community,” he said. “We really want to encourage anyone on the fence just to go ahead and protect yourself, protect your family and protect your friends.”
He said the vaccines available are “very safe” and noted that many employers such as health care providers, universities and potentially even some smaller businesses will likely require employees to be vaccinated.
Addressing vaccine hesitancy
Addressing some of the common reasons people give for not getting vaccinated against covid-19, Hackner encouraged younger people who feel “a little invulnerable” to “read some of the stories about individuals who felt that way and then became seriously ill and are now begging others not to do what they’ve done.”
He noted that serious illness can lead to “a great deal of pain and discomfort” and/or long-term disability.
Hackner said that those who believe they had covid previously and are immune still need to be vaccinated because that natural immunity “tends to go away much faster than vaccine immunity.”
Some people’s vaccine hesitancy comes from what Hackner described as “low-quality information sources” including social media.
“Look at the sources. Is it a reputable health care organization or provider?” Hackner said. “In those situations, if that’s someone you would not go to when you’re seriously ill, reconsider the source.”
For those whose peers have downplayed the virus or who are concerned about being vaccinated, Hackner emphasized that the vaccine is a private medical decision.
“You don’t have to tell anyone about it,” he said. “Just go do it for yourself.”
Additionally, patients will never be charged for a covid-19 vaccine. “The vaccine is free,” Hackner said.
He acknowledged that it is still possible for those who have been vaccinated to contract covid-19, but he said it is “very infrequent for those individuals to require hospitalization or to show signs of serious illness.”
In addition to getting vaccinated, Hackner advised people to continue wearing masks in some situations.
“My recommendation is that folks do use caution indoors with masks when you’re with folks who are not vaccinated or you’re not sure [if they’re vaccinated],” Hackner said.