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Opinion | Alabama Unites Against COVID stressing vaccination, testing

COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective in reducing severity of disease, hospitalizations, and deaths, and available to the public free of charge.

Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris APR GRAPHIC

COVID-19 has changed the way all of us conduct our daily lives and affects everyone, regardless of our neighborhoods, our political affiliations, our race, or our ethnicity. While many people have recovered from COVID-19, the disease can have serious, life-threatening complications, and its long-term effects are not known. Latest data show the number of Alabamians who have succumbed to COVID-19 is approaching 17,000, and numbers of deaths have exceeded births in the state for each of the past two years.

COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective in reducing severity of disease, hospitalizations, and deaths, and available to the public free of charge. Even so, the relatively low percentage of Alabama’s population vaccinated underscores the need for action. All Alabamians should do their part by getting vaccinated and getting boosters when eligible, especially since more infectious COVID-19 variants may someday emerge. Each person who is vaccinated helps assure a healthier community and state. When symptoms occur, testing and isolation protect others who might become exposed to the virus.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has introduced a new multimedia communications campaign, “Alabama Unites Against COVID.” The campaign, which stresses the importance of COVID-19 vaccine as well as testing, speaks to all Alabamians from rural regions to urban areas and aims to direct them to a new website, www.alabamaunites.com. The website is easy to navigate with buttons for locating vaccination and testing sites, updated guidance, frequently asked questions, vaccine information, and what to expect when testing for COVID-19.

The campaign theme highlights messages about how people from all walks of life are joining each other in their communities in the fight against the virus. In addition to advertisements in print publications, four television commercials are airing on stations statewide and on social media. The ads highlight the following: community leaders who love Alabama and Alabamians and are united in the fight against COVID-19, expressing the regrets of a COVID-19 sufferer about not being vaccinated, safeguarding young children from “monsters,” namely COVID-19, and people in a variety of pursuits and occupations protecting themselves by getting vaccinated. The ads feature state residents of different races, ethnicities, and ages and include elected leaders.

Regrettably, some Alabamians live in “information bubbles” that promote and sustain vaccine hesitancy. The Alabama Unites website sends the visitor to links which disseminate clear, complete, and accurate messages about COVID-19 vaccines and encourage them to get tested when they experience symptoms. Resources provide answers to frequently asked questions on vaccine benefits, effectiveness, safety, possible side effects, and availability. Information about what is known and what is unknown is provided.

This campaign demonstrates in an emotionally powerful way how important it is that we stand together. When more people get vaccinated and tested, we are encouraged, because the fight is not over yet. It is still critical that Alabamians protect themselves and others by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone who has symptoms of the virus, should get tested as soon as possible. By doing these things, we can greatly reduce the effects of COVID-19.

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