Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine When My Turn Comes?
Several patients have asked me this question lately. Some of them have already made up their mind about whether to get the vaccine when they become eligible to get it. Many others have yet to decide. If you have questions, please read on.
My first response is to always respect the individual rights and beliefs of my patients. My patients come from all walks of life, some with long-held concerns about the general safety of vaccines. Many patients routinely get vaccinated. If you get the flu shot each year, you may have already decided to take the COVID-19 (CV19) vaccine. My Five Element acupuncture training has taught me to honor each person as a unique individual, and to uphold a patient-centered approach to healthcare. This means I do more than not treat you all with a “cookie-cutter medicine” approach. It means I understand and respect you as an individual at a deeper level ̶ your needs, values, and preferences. Therefore, for any of my patients who chose not to take any vaccine, including the current CV19 vaccine, I understand and respect your decision.
I myself have been hesitant to take certain vaccines. For example, I have never taken the flu shot. When I weigh the risks against the benefits for myself each flu season, I do not see enough benefit to the flu vaccine to choose to take it. However, I have recommended the flu shot to many of my patients, especially seniors who could develop a severe case of the flu if infected. You may read my blog post about flu shot advice here.
I made a different choice for myself with the CV19 vaccine. I have already taken the CV19 vaccine, because this vaccine decision is different from the regular flu vaccine decision in important ways. First, let’s consider the risks of taking versus not taking the CV19 vaccine.
CV19 vaccine risks have been shown to be very low in clinical trials. Early safety data from the first month of CV19 vaccination in the U.S. finds the shots are as safe as the studies suggested they’d be. A very small percentage of people (generally those with known allergies) who took the Moderna vaccine have had temporary allergic reactions, most of which have been minor. Medics are always present at vaccination sites. They are ready to administer first aid to anyone who develops a severe allergic reaction. Multiple government agencies are investigating two potential vaccine-related deaths, which is concerning. Even so, the risk of taking this vaccine seems extremely low, even by typical vaccine standards.
What happens if you don’t take the CV19 vaccine? Let’s look at the risks. How sick would you get from CV19 if you don’t get the vaccine? It’s impossible to know, because who gets severely ill from CV19 is so unpredictable. Generally older people with underlying conditions get it worse, but many healthy younger people have also been hospitalized and died from this pandemic. Even more strange, a sizable number of young adults are developing severe post-COVID symptoms including mental illness. If you don’t take the CV19 vaccine, you run the risk of getting a bad case of CV19. How much risk you are willing to take is a purely personal decision.
When I made my personal CV19 vaccine decision, I chose to compare the risk of not getting the flu shot to the risk of not getting the CV19 vaccine. The risk of not taking the CV19 vaccine is far greater than not taking the flu shot. In my study of the data on the pandemic vs. flu, here are some key differences:
- CV19 is much more severe, and much more deadly. The 10-year average of about 28,645,000 flu cases per year has a 1.6% hospitalization rate and a 0.13% mortality rate. Unfortunately, CV19 has a 20% overall hospitalization rate and is currently 13 times more deadly at 1.7%. Also, CV19 affects so many more body systems than the flu, so it has many more potentially harmful symptoms.
- CV19 symptoms are more long-term. Severe CV19 symptoms can persist long after you initially recover ̶ in about 20% of recovered patients. Severe post-COVID symptoms have been shown to affect both young and old.
- CV19 is more transmissible. According to the latest CDC comparison of these two viruses, “If a person has COVID-19, they may be contagious for a longer period of time than if they had flu.”
- CV19 is more unpredictable. Although COVID-19 is similar to the flu in that most severely ill cases occur in frail elderly people. However, it differs in how many more healthy, young and middle-aged people have become seriously ill or died from CV19.
- The CV19 vaccine is far more effective than the flu vaccine. The CDC flu vaccine effectiveness estimates over the past decade show the flu vaccination reduces the incidence of flu-like illness by about 45%. The two CV19 vaccines currently in use show 94% and 95% effectiveness, respectively. Even in the 5% of cases where Moderna’s vaccine did not prevent infection, it was shown to have 100% effectiveness in stopping hospitalizations and severe cases. By normal vaccine standards, these are incredible statistics.
I feel a responsibility as your dedicated acupuncture physician to do all I can to protect you, my patient, from risk of any infection. That is why we have a mandatory mask policy in our practice during this pandemic, and why we take all the CDC-recommended precautions to prevent viral spread in my practice. I consider my taking the CV19 vaccine to be another way that I protect my patients from this dangerous virus. If we all take the CV19 vaccine when our turn comes, we can beat this pandemic much more quickly.
I hear a lot of patients taking a “wait and see” approach, which delays their decision to take the vaccine. Many of you are concerned about the CV19 vaccine’s safety, since it is so new. If this has you on the fence, I want you to know that a big reason I chose to take the CV19 vaccine is that I am convinced of its safety. I would not have taken it otherwise.
Some of you are skeptical at how the CV19 vaccine seems to have been developed at “warp speed”. Although manufacturing of the vaccines was sped-up by our federal government pre-purchasing millions of vaccine doses, the research itself was not sped-up. The first two companies (Pfizer and Moderna) and the FDA cut no corners in verifying the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines.
I have studied the mRNA technology by which these first two FDA emergency use-authorized vaccines work. As the CDC explains:
- mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person.
- mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.
- The mRNA replication stimulates your immune system to make antibodies against the spike protein, thus preventing the virus to take hold and wreak damage inside your cells.
Therefore, you cannot get COVID-19 from taking this vaccine.
You have undoubtedly read that a small number of people have developed some generally mild to moderate flu-like symptoms for a short while after getting vaccinated. But even when someone develops these flu-like symptoms, they are far milder than your risk of developing more serious symptoms from getting infected by COVID-19.
Some of you are wary of vaccines in general because certain traditional vaccines have a controversial history of suspect ingredients such as heavy metals. Ingredients such as mercury known to have been in these vaccines have been linked to increased risk of autism in children. I believe every vaccine should be considered on a case-by-case basis. In this case, I carefully read the list of ingredients of the Moderna CV19 vaccine before I received it. I am convinced it contains no dangerous or suspicious ingredients.
As a healthcare worker with direct patient contact, I feel fortunate to be in the first priority group for CV19 vaccine eligibility. I took the vaccine when my turn came, and only experienced some mild arm soreness for about a day. Having been vaccinated, I already feel more at ease knowing I’ve greatly lowered my risk of getting CV19. It is still important to be careful while new CV19 variants show up and circulate, but my overall feeling of being protected is a relief – both for myself and for all the people I come in contact with each day.
I believe most of you will also feel relieved if you choose to take the CV19 vaccine. Navigating this pandemic is stressful, and protecting yourself by safely vaccinating can relieve a lot of your pandemic stress. You may feel safer to return to a normal lifestyle sooner. I heartily recommend that you weigh the pros and cons for yourself, considering all of the points I have raised. I trust you will make the right decision for yourself.
If you have any questions about whether to take the CV19 vaccine or not, I invite you to contact me at my office at (904) 296-9545. I’m happy to help you make an informed decision for yourself. Wishing you all the best!
Yours in holistic health,