My guest column “Vaccines protect you and those around you” appeared in the Tampa Bay Times on February 6, 2013.  Word-for-word, the article recommending vaccinations could be reprinted today and still be pertinent -- and even more so.

For more than a year, the public has been bombarded with confusing and conflicting information about COVID-19, caused by a new coronavirus naturally seen in bats. Especially at the onset, even health experts did not know what to expect. It was difficult to discern accurate information from news reports and social media posts that doubted COVID-19’s existence or derided precautions.  

As time passed, scientists and physicians learned more week-by-week and month-by-month, adapting recommendations accordingly. Early on, the medical community realized that preventing access is the main course of action to combat the spread of the virus.  The virus is not “alive” by itself and cannot replicate outside a living organism. Without a host, the virus will be destroyed naturally within a day or two. However, once granted entry, the virus multiplies inside our cells and can cause tremendous damage to almost all organs in the body.  

The second successful way of prevention is vaccination, which helps the body to fight off the virus by developing antidote (antibodies). Well, the specific vaccines are here in the shortest time possible in history and the safest manner available to science by using only a small portion of the virus making it impossible to contract COVID-19 through vaccination.

Many believe that once vaccinated it is unnecessary to follow precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Not so fast!

Vaccines do not provide 100 percent protection (immunity) as people respond differently. If a particular vaccine is considered 95 percent effective, five percent of the people receiving vaccinations may not acquire adequate immunity. Some of the people that are vaccinated and developed full immunity can remain asymptomatic carriers, spreading the virus to non-protected people.

We do not know yet how effective the current vaccines will be against mutated strains of the virus that are naturally developing worldwide.  These variant virus forms can spread quickly and easily, especially as national and international travel restrictions are relaxed.

It is vitally important to continue taking personal precautions (wearing a fresh face mask covering both nose and mouth, washing hands adequately and frequently, and watching the distance from one another).

Having said all this, mass vaccination all over the world remains the most effective preventative measure not only for you, but for the people around you.  If 70 percent or more of the world population becomes immune to the virus through mass vaccinations or by surviving the COVID-19 infection, we have a good chance of defeating this pandemic soon.

If you are among those who do not believe in vaccinations, you should hope that enough of the rest of us are vaccinated to protect you and your loved ones. I urge you to be part of the solution. 

Take care and stay safe!