Written by UMMC’s Dr. Marty Tucker
ACOG / J. Martin Tucker MD op-ed
I’m an obstetrician–gynecologist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. I’m also the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a national organization of 60,000 physicians dedicated to women’s health. Most importantly, I’m a lifelong Mississippian, raised in Aberdeen, and hugely proud of my state. Mississippi is the source of my strength and guidance, my medical education, and my motivation for becoming a physician.
A fourth wave of COVID-19 is crashing over Mississippi. This is not the kind of summer wave we wanted. This wave is catching those who have not yet been vaccinated, including our young people. Like any American, I’m reminded of the bleak early stages of the pandemic. Like any Mississippian, I’m afraid for my loved ones and community. And like any doctor, I want to take care of my patients and others.
You’ve probably heard about the Delta variant of COVID-19. This is a game-changer in the worst way. Delta spreads far more easily than previous strains of COVID-19. Infections, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit admissions have risen sharply in Mississippi. My hospital’s ICU is admitting pregnant people, children and infants, and this is a trend happening across our state. Over the past month, nine out of ten COVID-19 deaths in Mississippi have been people who had not yet been vaccinated. These are our neighbors, our friends, our acquaintances, those we work and laugh with — including younger people.
This fourth wave is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. In every COVID-19 scenario, a vaccinated person does better than an unvaccinated person. Americans have received more than 342 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Mississippians have had well over 2 million doses. The data show again and again how safe and effective our COVID-19 vaccines are, including against the Delta variant. I got vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect myself, my loved ones, my patients, my co-workers, and my community.
If you’re aged 12 or older, if you live or work in Mississippi, we have a free vaccine waiting for you at a state site. If you’ve had only one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, be sure to get your second dose too.
Moreover, if you’re pregnant, I recommend you get vaccinated – a recommendation backed by my national organization. It is safe and it will protect you from the severe complications from COVID-19 infection that are more common during pregnancy.
I believe we can vaccinate enough people in this state to keep us all safe. Mississippians understand that vaccination saves lives. In a survey, most of us said we planned to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Most Mississippians above the age of 65 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s time for all people over 12 years to join them.
Mississippians understand that vaccination is not just about protecting ourselves; we understand that it is about protecting our neighbors, our loved ones, and our communities. Mississippians want our memorable moments back. We want to spend time with our families and friends, return to work, be part of the economic recovery, and have the freedom to live our full lives, rather than facing a renewed threat of a return to lockdowns and time spent away from our families and friends.
Vaccination can give us the peace of mind that we have missed for so long. Once you’re vaccinated, or have scheduled your vaccination, let your friends and family know why, and how you signed up. You don’t need to be a physician to help others take care of themselves. We’re making Mississippi safer together.
Martin Tucker, MD, of Jackson, Mississippi, is Professor and Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and President of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, based in Washington, D.C. Among national, district, and state roles, he has chaired the Mississippi Infant Mortality Task Force and the Council on Legislation for the Mississippi State Medical Association.