About 48% of Montanans 12 and older are now fully vaccinated for the virus that causes COVID-19. In Teton County, though, only 39% of eligible people have received vaccinations, and only 11% of kids ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated. With school right around the corner and Delta variant COVID-19 infections soaring across the state and nation, now would be a great time for those who are still unvaccinated to call their doctor and talk about the pros and cons of taking one of the three COVID-19 vaccines now available and offered for free.

No vaccine offers 100% protection from infection, and scientists already know that the three vaccinations now approved do not offer perfect protection. Some people who have been fully vaccinated are going to still catch COVID-19. Current studies (which could change over time) show that fewer than 1% of those fully vaccinated will still catch COVID-19. Studies continue to show that the three vaccines do a very good job of protecting people from developing life-threatening COVID-19 illness that would require hospitalization and could lead to death. Nationwide and in Montana, the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases are occurring in those who have not yet been vaccinated.

People are dying from COVID-19 whose lives could have been saved by vaccinations. Just as measles, mumps, chickenpox, small pox and polio vaccines have saved lives over the decades, the new coronavirus vaccine is just the latest in a long line of safe vaccines used to prevent serious illness and death. Anyone with concerns about the safety of the vaccines or the way the FDA fast-tracked them should contact their doctor or other trusted medical provider and get the facts.

Our public schools will all be starting in a couple of weeks. Our children will be returning to classrooms. As adults, we need to do everything we can to keep them healthy and safe and doing in-person school. The best way we as a community can support our students and schools is for everyone 12 and older to get vaccinated. We don’t want to see our football or volleyball teams sidelined with COVID-19. We want to see a normal 2021-22 school year. To do that, everyone needs to get vaccinated.