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Arizona Opinion: When you get the COVID-19 vaccine, you’re saving someone else’s life
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Arizona Opinion

Arizona Opinion: When you get the COVID-19 vaccine, you’re saving someone else’s life

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Imagine not being able to eat, relying on medicine, tubes and intravenous nutrition to stay alive. Now, imagine having to face this burden every single day at 18 years old due to a complex disease.

This was the reality for my patient with Superior Mesenteric Artery syndrome. But a life-changing surgery has helped to give her a new future. She is now able to live her life, return to big hunting trips, enjoy the great outdoors and see our beautiful state without the glare of a window.

With COVID-19 running rampant across our state, increasing the stress on Arizona’s hospital systems, hospitals have once again begun restricting visitor access and are discussing what other steps are needed to help deal with this surge. We have been here before, dedicating more and more hospital beds to patients suffering from COVID-19, leaving fewer available to accommodate those with other medical issues, and those who need surgical treatment.

In Arizona, more than 75% of positive cases are a result of the delta variant and 94.1% of those cases are among those not fully vaccinated. It’s a highly contagious mutation that is spreading rapidly in large part because nearly half of Arizona remains unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Here’s how we can fight this:

Get vaccinated. The vaccine is a safe and effective tool that will help us protect our family, friends and neighbors, while helping to prevent the future spread of the virus. It will reduce the number of Arizonans suffering from debilitating cases of COVID-19 and ease the burden on our hospital system. And it will help me protect my patients whose lives could be changed for the better through surgery.

Promote the vaccine in your community. I have witnessed firsthand the significant impact our incredible health care system can have. But an increase in COVID-19 cases creates a real risk that patients may have surgical care delayed, whether because hospitals must limit operations or because patients fear they may catch the virus in the hospital and put the health of their loved ones in jeopardy.

In Florida, for example, 95% of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated and currently causing the largest surge in hospitalizations the state has seen since last summer. We can’t afford to let Arizona follow down the same path.

Speak to your doctor if you have questions. To any Arizonans who are hesitant about the vaccine, I encourage you to speak to your doctor and allow him or her to address your concerns and share information on the vaccine. Call the physicians and nurses in your community and ask questions. These experts — with years of training — should be a trusted source of information. We work every day to keep Arizonans healthy and the rampant rise of disinformation — misleading, inaccurate and false statements — on the COVID-19 vaccine is a serious threat.

Unfortunately, research has shown that delaying lifesaving procedures can have permanent and devastating consequences to one’s health. Delaying even routine procedures such as hip replacements can potentially triple recovery time, turning a three- to four-month process into 12-24 months.

We must all work together to combat this virus and get our fellow suffering Arizonans back in the operating room to receive the lifesaving surgeries they desperately need.

Ross F. Goldberg, MD, FACS, is the Vice-Chair of Surgery and Specialty Ambulatory Medical Director at Valleywise Health.

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