The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the role vaccines play in preserving public health. Amid hesitancy and misinformation, returning to a sense of normalcy can be heavily credited to the creation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
With three decades of experience in the health care industry, Lone Star Circle of Care Chief Medical Officer and Chief Quality Officer Kathleen Butler, MD has a vast knowledge of viruses, vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The last pandemic in the U.S. was the H1N1 ‘Spanish’ influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Some of us have heard about it, but none of us could imagine it until we had COVID-19 start and had to respond,” Dr. Butler said. “Everybody brought all their resources together and we came up with something when we didn’t know what we were facing. We didn’t know what was making people sick.”
Vaccines have always been crucial in preventing and eradicating diseases, but the COVID-19 pandemic posed an unparalleled challenge in the field of modern medicine. In a time of worldwide panic, scientists swiftly devised a solution.
“Scientists did what scientists do. They researched and they collaborated. They created and they came up with something that we needed to help prevent so much sickness and death,” Dr. Butler said. “They came up with a vaccine against a novel virus, and they did it in record time.”
The number of COVID-19 cases has declined significantly since the onset of the pandemic. Mask mandates are now nearly nonexistent, and hospitalizations have dwindled, but Dr. Butler said it’s important to understand the virus is still around.
“Although the number of cases has declined significantly, especially since the development and administration of the various COVID-19 vaccines, there are still cases of COVID-19 out there and people are still getting sick,” Dr. Butler said. “The virus hasn’t gone away, and it continues to change to try to evade some of our defenses.”
Because the virus is constantly changing, the most effective protection against COVID-19 is the vaccine and the most-current boosters. Right now, Lone Star Circle of Care clinics in Central Texas and Houston are offering COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to patients.
“It might not be possible to entirely prevent all the cases of COVID that are out there. But our odds are a lot better, a lot more in our favor for preventing infection and reducing long term consequences, if we’ve gotten the recommended doses of the available COVID-19 vaccines,” Dr. Butler said.
One of the biggest issues in the fight against COVID-19 is misinformation surrounding the vaccines. As a result of false reports and rumors, many people think they don’t need a vaccine, believing that it is dangerous, or that other people getting the vaccine is enough to protect them.
“There’s a lot of disinformation out there, but there’s also a lot of really good information for anyone who doesn’t think that they need a vaccine or booster,” Dr. Butler said. “‘I would just continue to ask, ‘We have a significant and proven opportunity to prevent an infection that has potential long term consequences. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Why would we willingly choose not to help protect other people in our homes or our communities?”
Lone Star Circle of Care also offers all the recommended childhood, adult and senior immunizations. The result of refusing vaccinations, Dr. Butler said, is the return of diseases that were once on the verge of being eradicated.
“Vaccination efforts have been a huge public health success in the past 50 years or so,” Dr. Butler said. “Vaccines have been incredibly effective in preventing a number of diseases and illnesses. They’ve been so successful in keeping people well, that many of us have never seen or understand how bad those diseases are that we’re trying to prevent.”
As patients visit Lone Star Circle of Care to receive their COVID-19 vaccine and wellness checks, doctors are encouraging them to get caught up on all of their vaccinations and stay up-to-date on preventative care.
“COVID numbers are down. It’s safe to come back into the health care environment. See your health care provider if you’re due or overdue for preventative screenings, vaccines and boosters,” Dr. Butler said. “This is one of the most important steps you can take to live your best life.”
Dr. Butler invites Central Texans who don’t currently have a health care provider to visit their nearest Lone Star Circle of Care clinic and start the journey to getting back on track.
“We’re getting back to normal, whatever normal is becoming,” Dr. Butler said. “It’s going to be a new normal for us, but that should still include routine health care, so hopefully everybody will get back in the groove with that too.”
Interested in learning more about Lone Star Circle of Care? Visit www.lonestarcares.org to find out more about its services and find a location. To receive a free COVID-19 vaccination, call 877-800-5722 to schedule an appointment.
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