We are celebrating the approval, release and shipping of the first approved COVID-19 vaccine to all 50 states. As we witnessed the trucks pulling out there is a huge relief that finally we may see a legitimate tool to help mitigate the outbreaks of this contagious and devastating pandemic. It is a good day in America!
Most of the commentators are stating that this may be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. As healthcare workers get the vaccine we will certainly be thankful for their protection and safety. As the second round of the vaccine is applied to our most vulnerable, that also will reduce deaths. I am sure the side effects and impact of the vaccine will be thoroughly researched and discussed in the media. However, there is so much more that is on the table relating to the impact of this pandemic.
As you may remember the United States had a number of very serious issues that we were dealing with prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. We are facing a national addictions crisis with opioids including significant growth in some of the most powerful drugs being abused that we have ever witnessed, experiencing approximately 72,000 deaths annually.
We also have a bottleneck in our mental health systems. There are increases in extensive anxiety, depression and suicide that are raging. There were a number of individuals who turned to gun violence as a way to express their anger and angst. Schools are struggling to maintain their students appropriately. Urban public schools are in financial duress. We also are incarcerating more individuals than any country in the world. The list goes on.
What I think is happening in the shadows of COVID-19 is that these problems have been pressure-tested and have gotten much worse. The pandemic has hidden some of the impact of these problems because of the extensive public information so desperately needed about COVID-19. Individuals have been in isolation for 9 months and we have yet to uncover what it will be like when we return to some level of normalcy.
Although the vaccine is great news and may be a catalyst to reduce the incidences of COVID-19 we still have so many issues to solve and resolve, many that have been elevated since last March. We have found ourselves in a divided country with these issues and more that are compelling and life devastating!
Rather than seeing this as the beginning of the end of the pandemic, I think we should look at it as a new journey. First, we certainly do need to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 but we also need to become aware and focused at all the other issues that have arisen to make our society more unhealthy, fearful and unstable. At the core of many of these realities is trauma, usually from childhood. It is imperative for us to provide environments for people that are safe in order to promote emotional and relational health for them. We need more therapy options, group support, counseling, systems transformation, new attitudes about how much our kids need to be in schools and so much more.
So, while we are celebrating the release of the vaccine there should also be a sobering reality that we have a very long journey – before us and collectively – to heal this nation. We certainly will try to do our part at Lakeside, but we must realize that it will take all of us with common goals to bring our country to a place of true health. As we celebrate the news of the vaccine, we also must recognize that this is just the beginning of a journey of hope and change. It is an opportunity that we all should take seriously!