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Why voting is good for your health, according to San Antonio infectious disease doctor

Dr. Ruth Berggren talks vaccine latest, voting in KSAT Q&A

SAN ANTONIO – From concerns over mail-in ballots to risking exposure at the polls, voting during a pandemic has been a hot topic this election season. In the latest KSAT Q&A, Dr. Ruth Berggren with UT Health’s Long School of Medicine said whichever way you vote, it could be good for your health.

How could voting be good for your health in the middle of a pandemic?

“People who are civically engaged, they engage in civic activities, including voting, actually have better social connections, stronger social networks, better mental health, are less likely to engage in risky behaviors later in life. And therefore, they’re doing all sorts of things that can actually help them live longer,” she said.

Dr. Berggren said while the number of coronavirus cases in Bexar County have dropped, the virus is still around and demands precautions. She said she still sees plenty of patients getting desperately ill, from adults in their 70s to as early as their 20s.

“If we let our guard down, we’re just going to see this multiply. So hang in there. I know people are tired of hearing about it, but we have to hang in there. And a vaccine is definitely on its way, so it’s not going to be forever,” she said.

Latest vaccine developments

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out new guidance to prepare states for a vaccine distribution. Berggren described it as a playbook for how to get organized and what to expect to prepare for delivering the vaccine.

“It’s a big logistical hurdle and one that we have to get ready for,” she said. According to Berggren, there are as many as five vaccines from different companies that are working through the approval process. But administering the vaccine won’t be as easy as lining up in a drive-thru. Berggren said there will be multiple phases, with the first phase targeting higher-risk people. She also said the vaccine will likely come in the form of multiple injections.

“You get your first shot, and then you wait three to four weeks and you go back to your second one. And you’re going to have to make sure that you get the same kind that you got the first time. In other words, they’re not mix and match. So there are some logistical issues,” she said.

Catch these KSAT Q&As live at 6:30 p.m. and on the Nightbeat.

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