Guest Column: Vaccine offers hope to return to what we love

Published 8:45 pm Friday, May 7, 2021

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Guest Column by Robert Bonacci

As a primary care physician at Mayo Clinic, it’s my job to listen to and advise my patients on the best medical care for them. With the COVID vaccine now readily available, I have conversations every day with patients about the vaccine, noting the concern in their voices. Some have questions, hesitation and yes, fears. However, my colleagues and I agree: Vaccination is the best, fastest and safest way out of the pandemic.

Robert Bonacci

As more become vaccinated and restrictions relax, it’s easy to think the end of the pandemic is in sight. Those of us in health care rejoice along with our communities that more are getting vaccinated, bringing us closer to the 80% mark that would slow the spread of the disease. 

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But we understand not everyone is on board. 

We hear some patients’ hesitancy — worry about the side effects, wanting to see if it truly is safe, stepping aside so “others who need it more” can get their vaccine, allergy concerns. Those are just a few concerns I’ve heard from local patients that we realize are national worries, too. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths about the vaccine that have no basis in fact, like the internet myth alleging that vaccination can cause infertility, which is completely false. 

There is one common theme in most conversations. Nearly all my patients tell me how much they want things to get “back to normal.” They want to see their family, travel, shop without a mask, stand shoulder-to-shoulder at a sporting event or concert. I understand. I want these things, too.   

To get there, we need to work together as a community to help those who are hesitant to get the vaccine or don’t feel they have enough information to make a confident decision. We need to share with one another the opportunities to get a vaccine. This work benefits us all. 

Here’s what I share with family, friends and patients when they ask me about the vaccine:   

• The three vaccines granted Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) by the FDA — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen — underwent the same testing and clinical trial process as every other vaccine we commonly use. Tens of thousands of patients in clinical trials received these vaccines without serious side effects. 

• The COVID vaccines available result in a strong immune response. The duration of immunity appears to last longer, at least six months, than the immunity that may come with recovering from COVID-19. COVID vaccines do not pose the risk of hospitalization or dying seen with COVID infection. 

• We know there are some people who are not able to be vaccinated due to allergies, being immunocompromised or for other reasons. That makes it more important than ever for those who can be vaccinated to do so right away. The vaccine not only keeps you safe — it makes our families, schools and communities safer, too. 

In Freeborn County, we’re making progress. Just over half our population has had at least one dose. With improved vaccine supply from the Minnesota Department of Health, we have ample vaccine for all who qualify, and appointments are readily available. 

As health care providers, we are doing all we can, but we can’t be at your family dinner table, or at your place of worship or talking with your neighbors. Look to those areas of influence and reach out. We need an all-hands-on-deck response to this pandemic. 

Helping one another feel confident about getting vaccinated and supporting those who seek vaccine reassurance, I envision a hopeful future and even stronger, more resilient sense of community. 

Dr. Robert Bonacci is a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician and primary care lead in Albert Lea and Austin. He was among the first to step up and receive the COVID vaccine.



Vaccinations available
to anyone 16 and up

Mayo Clinic Health System is now providing COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone 16 and up. Patients and community members no longer need to wait to be contacted to get vaccinated for COVID-19, and appointments are readily available. 

Anyone, including non-Mayo patients, can schedule an appointment to get vaccinated for COVID-19 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and at Mayo Clinic Health System sites across Minnesota. Those seeking vaccination appointments do not need to be a resident of Minnesota to get vaccinated in Minnesota. 

For those who wish to schedule an appointment, call the appointment line at:

• Mayo Clinic in Rochester: 507-538-4040

• Mayo Clinic Health System in Southeast Minnesota: 507-434-9929

• Mayo Clinic Health System in Southwest Minnesota: 507-594-2100

For information about the COVID vaccine, visit the Freeborn County Department of Public Health website.