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Gazette opinion: It's past time to take this message to heart: Get vaccinated

Gazette opinion: It's past time to take this message to heart: Get vaccinated

ICU nurse Olivia Cole

ICU nurse Olivia Cole talks about caring for COVID-19 patients at St. Vincent Healthcare.

Three hundred and four.

That's the latest total of fatalities in Yellowstone County from COVID-19 related illness.

The latest two victims died Thursday. One was unvaccinated; the other was vaccinated.

It's important to understand that COVID-19-related deaths among fully vaccinated people are exceedingly rare — about two-thousandths of a percent, according to the CDC. The deaths of the unvaccinated are far more common.

And we sure have plenty of unvaccinated people currently suffering from COVID-19 in Yellowstone County.

Among the 105 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in the city, 94 are unvaccinated.

That speaks volumes.

Only about 51 percent of age-eligible Yellowstone County residents have been vaccinated. There seems to be a disconnect about the seriousness of the current uptick in cases across the county, state and country.

Mask-wearing and social distancing in public is startlingly rare here. The combination of low personal protection and low vaccination rate means that the number of fatalities here is sure to grow. Many of us are playing Russian roulette with our health and that of our loved ones and those around us.

Please understand: The Delta variant is a whole new ballgame. It is much more communicable than previous strains of the virus.

“As we grieve these two pandemic victims and offer condolences to their families, let us do all we can to reduce the risk of more people getting infected,” said John Felton, Yellowstone County health officer and RiverStone Health CEO and president. “Vaccination is the fastest, surest and most effective way to reduce risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.”

It's past time to take that message to heart.

RiverStone Health is offering free first and second doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to everyone age 12 and older. The two-dose Moderna vaccine is available to people age 18 and older as is the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Third doses will be given only to immune-compromised people. RiverStone Health has scheduled a free, walk-in clinic on Thursday, Sept. 23, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., RiverStone Health, 123 S. 27th St., in the four-story building.

But you don't have to wait for the walk-in clinic. To make appointments for first and second vaccine doses with the RiverStone Health Immunization Clinic, call 247-3382. More vaccination information is posted at


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