One ER Doc’s Thoughts on Covid Vaccines
Indulge me for a moment while I deliver an obligatory PSA as a healthcare professional who has witnessed first-hand what this terrible virus can do to people. If you’ve not yet been vaccinated, drop everything you are doing right now and get your first shot. I promise it won’t really hurt, my 9-year-old took hers like a champ. If you have only received a single dose of the J & J vaccine and more than 2 months have passed, get an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) shot. If you have only had 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine and more than 6 months have passed since the last dose, get your 3rd shot, like right now.
Unless you have known anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction) to a vaccine ingredient (which is vanishingly rare) or have had documented pericarditis or myocarditis (inflammation of the heart tissue) to a prior covid vaccine dose, you have virtually zero reasons to skip this vaccine. No need to “talk to your doctor about what’s right for you” because if your doctor suggests you shouldn't get vaccinated and you do not fall into one of these (exceedingly rare) categories, you should fire your doctor, immediately. IDGAF if you’ve had a prior bout of covid and have recovered. “Natural immunity” is unpredictable and we know that the risk of reinfection for those who have recovered from covid can be significantly reduced with vaccination.
Did you read on the internet somewhere that the vaccine is killing massive numbers of people? Bulls@#. No vaccine in history has been as carefully scrutinized as these covid vaccines have. “But, but, but VAERS!” (database for reporting potential adverse reactions to a vaccine) Perhaps you missed the not-so-fine print, “VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.” I work in the emergency department and I can assure you if these vaccines were truly harming large numbers of people we’d be seeing it. And guess what? We’re not. Your favorite TV host or politician has told you this is about “tyranny”, “freedom”, “oppression”, “control”, or some other fakakta nonsense? Trust me, they do not GAF about you or the people you care about. Because if they did, they would encourage you to get vaccinated to protect not only yourself but those around you. It’s not even a close call. The science is crystal clear. These vaccines reduce the risk of becoming infected with covid (and thereby reduce the risk of spreading it, duh), becoming hospitalized with covid, and dying from covid.
Are the vaccines perfect? Of course not, nothing is. Don’t come at me with “well, I can still get infected with covid, spread it, and die even if I’m vaccinated.” Given the choice, would you rather be in a car equipped with airbags and seat belts driving into a wall at 50mph or be in that same car minus the airbags and seat belt? Sure, you might still die in the first scenario, but your odds of survival are a hell of a lot better than the second. “But if you’re vaccinated why do you care if I’m vaccinated?” Because when you get covid and you expose me to it, it’s like you’re taking me along in that speeding car with you. I may be the one wearing a seatbelt and have an airbag, but I didn’t want to be in the car with you to begin with.
So, if these vaccines are both safe and effective, why are some people still choosing to forego them? For those of you who have successfully insulated yourselves from all objective news sources or have been in a coma for the past several months, here is some public opinion polling you might find interesting. The conclusion? One of the single most reliable predictors of remaining unvaccinated in the US is self-identifying as a Republican. You read that correctly. It is not a myth, an opinion, “fake news”, a left-wing conspiracy, or imagined. And it wasn’t always this way.
In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican, for those who skipped US history) marked the 5th anniversary of the polio vaccine by imploring more Americans to get vaccinated. “In the intervening years, polio has been dealt a heavy blow but it has not been destroyed. The reason is clear; not enough Americans have had the full course of injections that are needed for the maximum protection afforded by the vaccine against polio. Many people are needlessly risking death or lifetime handicap simply because they have failed to take advantage of one of medicine’s great achievements.” And bear in mind, polio was a disease that in 1952 resulted in 3,145 deaths and 21,269 cases of mild to disabling paralysis in the US (contrast that with the nearly 800 thousand American covid deaths since the start of the pandemic less than 2 years ago).
In 1954, the difference in Republicans versus Democrats who reported they would be willing to receive the polio vaccine was a narrow 2% (59% versus 61%). In 2001, polling indicated that 93% of Republicans felt it was extremely or very important to vaccinate their children (compared with 97% of Democrats). By 2019, the proportion of Republicans who felt the same way fell to 79% (compared with 92% of Democrats). Even more striking are views on science. In 1975, 72% of Republicans expressed confidence in science (compared with 67% of Democrats). The same question asked in 2021 suggested that confidence in science among Republicans had dramatically fallen to 45% (while rising to 79% among Democrats).
Ok, so back in the day there was far less difference in public opinion on the importance of vaccines based on political identity than there is today. So what changed? Again, some public opinion polling provides a pretty strong clue, and it largely revolves around beliefs in misinformation about covid vaccines. What have been the sources of such information? It turns out that viewership of 3 news outlets is correlated with a belief in misinformation around covid. Care to guess what they are? They include Newsmax, One America News, and Fox News. Don’t believe me? Let’s peruse a sampling of what they have to offer their viewers.
A Newsmax host suggested “maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that” (I mean, really, WTF?). The White House press correspondent for Newsmax shared her belief that “the vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked” (the vaccines contain no such marker and contain no tracking devices). One America News has regularly interviewed a guest “who explains early treatment with hydroxychloroquine is far more effective than the vaccine” (there has never been any reliable clinical evidence to support the use of hydroxychloroquine for covid). Fox News’ own Tucker Carlson has repeated the lie that “the vaccinated spread covid just like the unvaccinated, there’s no difference” (remember, the vaccine protects against infection, if you don’t get infected, you won’t spread the virus). And let’s not ignore the comparison a Fox News host made between Dr. Anthony Fauci and the monstrous Nazi doctor Joesef Mengele. These are but a small sample of the avalanche of misinformation (and inflammatory rhetoric) provided by these news organizations.
What has been the net effect of all of this? Not surprisingly there is a large and growing partisan difference in vaccination rates. “As of September 13, 2021, 52.8% of people in counties that voted for Biden were fully vaccinated compared to 39.9% of Trump counties, a 12.9 percentage point difference.” Ok, counties that voted for Trump have lower vaccination rates than those that voted for Biden, so what? Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, these lower vaccination rates have translated into higher covid death rates. “Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden.”
In the end, I don’t care whether you identify as a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, a libertarian, or whatever. I just want to see fewer people get sick from covid and die. And at this point we have a very powerful and easy way to make this happen. Ignore the misinformation that is out there. The currently available vaccines for covid are very safe and effective. If I didn’t believe this, I never would have rushed out to get vaccinated myself and do the same for my 3 children the moment they each became eligible. I am not a Pfizer or Moderna shill. I receive no financial reward for promoting these vaccines. I have nothing to personally gain if you decide to get vaccinated other than an earlier end to the suffering and death caused by this pandemic that we all desire.