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If you are among the roughly one-third of area adults who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, this message is for you. We share this message not as leaders of our local healthcare systems, but as doctors with a combined experience of more than 60 years who have dedicated our careers to keeping you healthy.

You are now among the community members most at risk for COVID-19 infection and related complications, including hospitalization and death.

COVID-19 cases are rising nationwide and in our region. The threat of variants is increasing. The highly contagious, more transmissible Delta variant is here. Recent data show unvaccinated individuals account for 99.5% of recent U.S. hospital deaths due to COVID-19. However, in communities where vaccination rates are high, there are few hospitalizations or deaths due to COVID-19. In contrast, in communities where vaccination rates are low, there are rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

The solution is clear: Widespread vaccination is our best hope to end the pandemic.

You may have questions about the short- and long-term safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Were they sufficiently tested? What about rare side effects that have been reported? We can tell you that more than a billion people worldwide have received COVID-19 vaccines. Ongoing monitoring of vaccinated individuals shows no unexpected patterns of adverse reactions or other safety concerns. Extremely rare events, such as heart inflammation in young men, have occurred, but these instances represent a tiny fraction of all vaccinated people, and nearly all of those affected have recovered.

Yet, if any of our patients, family members or friends would ask us if they should get a COVID-19 vaccine, our answer is almost always "yes." Both of us have been vaccinated, as have our family members. We know COVID-19 vaccines are safe and extraordinarily effective against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Side effects typically are mild and don't last long.

No one likes to be told what to do, and the constant barrage of messages urging you to get vaccinated may feel burdensome. We get it. So please consider this humble request from a couple of local doctors to protect yourself, your loved ones and others. Choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. It's free and readily available. Visit vaccines.gov to find a convenient vaccination site near you.

You have the power to end the pandemic. Use it.


Scott Rathgaber, MD, CEO, Gundersen Health System

Paul S. Mueller, MD, Regional Vice President, Mayo Clinic Health System

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1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

(608) 782-7300

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