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Guest opinion

TMC chief: COVID vaccine critical as more young people & children are hospitalized

Judy Rich, RN, MSN, is the CEO and president of TMC Healthcare, which operates Tucson Medical Center.

We know what people are reading.

We also know what we SEE at Tucson Medical Center.

We see that the vaccines work and that they are safe. We were one of the largest vaccination sites in the community, and saw rare reactions to the vaccine during that process.

Thousands of our staff have been vaccinated, with no negative long-term impact.

On a larger scale, millions of people have been vaccinated for COVID-19, with effects no worse than those of the flu, tetanus or MMR vaccines.

And now we are seeing yet another surge. It is even more difficult this time around because we are seeing more young people and children in the hospital. It is frustrating and heartbreaking because we KNOW this surge could have been prevented. As one of the largest points of care for critically ill COVID patients in the region, we see that a vast majority – 99% - of those hospitalized and seriously ill are unvaccinated.

While we have not seen permanent changes in the health of the vaccinated, we have seen long-term changes in unvaccinated patients who have had COVID – chest pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty concentrating, joint and muscle pain, as well as a loss of taste and smell.

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We know most people don’t see what we see in the hospital. They’re lucky. Because some of the things we have seen with COVID will change us forever.

Judy Rich, RN, MSN, is the CEO and president of TMC Healthcare, which operates Tucson Medical Center.

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TucsonSentinel.com is one of dozens of news organizations around the country that are noted for reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic, and participating in "The Last Best Shot," an effort led by The Boston Globe to combat COVID-19 vaccination disinformation.

We have a clear choice. We can mark the start of a future in which COVID is relegated to little more than a nuisance, or we can watch the disease spiral further out of our grasp. Nearly 18 months after the pandemic shuttered much of the world, we are still in a state of uncertainty, one that threatens to steal yet another season and kill people who don't need to die.

The Last Best Shot reporting being published by the Sentinel and more than 50 outlets around the nation is meant to reinforce a simple fact: The only way out is vaccination. For every eligible person. Now.

See all of the #LastBestShot stories on the Sentinel here, and all of our coronavirus reporting here.

Stop the spread

The Pima County Health Department asks the public to help stop community spread of COVID-19 by taking the following steps:

  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu
  • Weara mask when indoors, at schools and in public places
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Limit gathering in public spaces
  • Limit travel that is not essential
  • Get tested if you have covid-like symptoms
  • Isolate for 10 days from others if you test positive
  • Quarantine if you are exposed to someone who tests positive