The first thing I tell my friends about the vaccine is that I am going to get it when it’s available to me. By the time this opinion piece is published, I will be among the healthcare providers to be vaccinated. Although personal protection equipment (PPE) is appreciated, I will be glad to be seeing people in the hospital with the real protection of immunity through a vaccine.
As it relates to COVID, each of us will make a choice about the vaccine. I choose to be vaccinated because I have seen the complications of COVID close up and have great faith in the scientific trials supporting this vaccine. It makes no sense to me to continue to roll the dice with just mask and distancing when there is a better way to be protected from the complications of the virus.
In trials involving 74,000 people, the vaccine had an effectiveness rate over 80% after one shot and 95% after completing the vaccination protocol. No one who got the vaccine got significant COVID complications after even just one shot and there were no significant adverse reactions to the vaccine over a two month period after the vaccination. The vaccine puts the odds of remaining COVID free square on my side.
By taking the vaccine, I lessen the constant worry I have of giving the virus to someone else. I don’t want to continue to cringe when my granddaughter wants a hug and a kiss. I don’t want to transmit the virus to any of my friends or family. And since most of my patients are vulnerable with chronic medical conditions, I certainly don’t want any of them to get the virus from me.
As for side effects, the trials tell me I can expect a sore arm and possible muscle and joint aches and fatigue for a couple of days. To me, this is a small price to pay for what we know is the effectiveness of the vaccine.
The worry the COVID pandemic will overwhelm hospitals has been present for the last 10 months and remains a concern. So does the consequences of people foregoing medical care for other health issues, increased depression and drug use, unemployment, and business failures resulting from lockdowns and stay at home policies during the COVID pandemic. Concerns associated with lockdowns go away if enough of us get the vaccine.
As a charter school board member, I have watched the inadequacy of virtual learning as a substitute for students being in school with teachers. I can attest to the negative impact on teachers, students, and parents. The vaccine will get children back in school and parents back to work.
With widespread vaccination on the horizon, the tragedy would be putting yourself in harm’s way with a safe and effective vaccine so close to reality. It makes sense to try even harder to keep distance from the virus. Preventive strategies like masks, physical distancing, staying at home when ill, and staying away from large indoor gatherings will become even more important over the next three to four months. This is especially true for those over 65; those with chronic medical conditions or obesity; and African-Americans who are nearly five times as likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die from COVID.
My advice to my friends and patients is to be more careful than ever over this winter and spring. Dr. Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, said “As we get into February and March, I think you are likely to see this virus largely collapse”. If that is true, you don’t want to get COVID pneumonia literally weeks before your turn to be vaccinated.
I acknowledge there are many questions right now without definitive answers. No one knows the length of the immunity given by the vaccine. However, we do know it elicits very strong immunity and the expectation is the vaccine will be effective months to years.
There is always some possibility of a long-term adverse event associated with the vaccine. However, the history of vaccines and presence of this new technology makes this extremely unlikely. Whatever real-world rate of possible complications has to be placed in context with what we know a vaccine will do – prevent deaths, disability, and disruption from COVID.
The question almost always posed to me by friends and patients is whether I am scared to be among the first to get the vaccine. The answer is no. The 74,000 courageous people who signed up for trials of the vaccine – some here in Shreveport-Bossier – have already gone first. I am much more frightened about what COVID could do to me and my family, friends, and patients and what it has already done to our community and world than any fear related to the vaccine.
Everyone will make a decision about the vaccine on their own. Everyone will develop their own risk/benefit analysis. As you do, I would recommend the web sites henryford.com and cdc.gov. Another option is to google Kizzmekia Corbett, the leader of the NIH vaccine team.
At this point, the only effective antidote to complications of COVID pneumonia, lockdowns, stay at home policies, virtual school, COVID business failures and unemployment, COVID-mediated depression and drug use is the vaccine. The only effective antidote to walking around in masks avoiding each other all the time is the vaccine. As for me, I look forward to the time we can continue living without thinking about COVID.
I have written a lot of opinion pieces about COVID over the last few months in the BIZ Magazine. The pieces were a search for the middle ground during a pandemic often politicized. The editorials were a search for hope and confidence to overcome anxiety and fear.
The vaccine gives us real hope and confidence. I have often quoted Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will uphold you with my righteousness.” We have to continue to remember these truths and those of scientific discovery as we make our way out of this pandemic over the next three to six months.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing cardiologist. He is past Chief of Staff at Willis-Knighton and Minden hospitals and is past board chair of the Greater Shreveport Chamber and Blueprint Louisiana.