Dear Community,

This is a plea for you to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

We have been in a surge at the hospital for the past month with record numbers of patients – 30 to 40 persons daily – being seen because of COVID-19. As of this afternoon (Monday, May 10) we have 20 patients, ages 19 to 91, in our COVID-19 units – we needed to open another unit to accommodate the spike in patients – with three of them on ventilators. Lack of COVID-19 vaccination is a common theme among these patients. The number of patients in the isolation units today compares with 21 on our worst day in December 2020.

The nurses, ancillary staff and providers in the hospital are becoming increasingly fatigued and frustrated because of the unrelenting rise in COVID-19 cases. The difference is, in December we did not have an effective weapon against this illness. We do now — the vaccines — but they are not being widely used.

To reach herd immunity, 70-80% of the population needs to be vaccinated. Currently we are at roughly 40% of the eligible population who have had at least one dose despite abundant vaccine being available throughout the county.

The vaccines are very safe It has now been five months since they first came out. Significant side effects typically occur in the first two weeks. With the J & J vaccine, rare blood clots were noted in this time period and affected 13 people out of 4.8 million of doses given. This has not been seen at all with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Consider this: You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than having a complication from a COVID vaccine.

Most of you have never seen a case of polio, measles, or smallpox. These are viral diseases that have been eliminated from everyday life because of vaccines.

The COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility. In fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women have access to these vaccines as it protects both the mother and child. One of our sickest COVID-19 patients was pregnant.

My colleagues and I routinely hear excuses along the lines of, “I am young and healthy so I do not need to get the vaccine.” Yet we are seeing increasing numbers of people aged 20 to 50 who are becoming “long haulers”. Many of these were not even admitted, but months after their infection they are still short of breath, have trouble with memory, experience depression, and have achy joints.

But more importantly, by not getting a COVID-19 vaccination you are not only affecting yourself but also your family, friends, neighbors and community. You may be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, come in contact with someone who is immunosuppressed who, even after getting a vaccination, is unable to mount an adequate response and remains susceptible. Immunosuppression increases with age as well as with illness.

In addition, natural immunity does not protect you as well as any of the vaccines and we are now seeing repeated infections.

If we do not get more people vaccinated and begin to attain herd immunity, this virus will continue to spread with increasing mutations/variants. The vaccines will stop this spread and greatly reduce the number of mutations/variants. Without adequate community vaccination we will continue to have further surges with both significant illness and loss of life.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has killed more than 570,000 Americans with countless numbers having long-term illness. We have safe and extremely effective vaccines to fight this war but only if people use them.

Please, get vaccinated.

I know this is not an easy decision for many, but if you have any questions please email me at or call 541-274-6150.

Thank you.

Dr. Niskanen is a Family Practice physician and Vice President for Medical Affairs at Sky Lakes Medical Center.