As we continue our journey with COVID-19, we now see how many government departments, businesses, healthcare organizations, etc., are requiring vaccination in order to continue to work there or to be hired by such entities. Many will say that this is abuse by the government or a violation of people’s rights or ability to make a choice.
There will be continued reference to how the vaccine is unproven, how it’s killed so many people or that natural remedies can effectively fight coronavirus. There will be references to how the medical field has experimented on people, especially people of color, causing harm.
Human beings, like all living beings, strive to stay alive. Because of this, we are hard-wired to respond to threats to our existence. These threats elicit feelings: if you hear a noise in the dark, you instantly feel endangered and think the worst. This has served us well to escape from wild animals, rival tribes and natural disasters.
I believe that the same has happened with vaccines against COVID-19. Although the technology has been around for decades, this vaccine is seen as new and unproven. Misinformation is now spread about how it is a way to inject microchips into us so that we can be tracked. How it will alter our DNA and lead to us becoming mutants. How it was used in the U.S. Virgin Islands as an experiment.
Many say they do not trust the government and that governments are controlled by an international Cabal that pulls all of our strings. That the virus was unleashed upon the world with dubious and nefarious objectives in order to exert total control.
In the recent past, vaccines were developed, people took them, and the diseases went away. Smallpox, polio, measles, whooping cough, hepatitis, meningitis, tetanus, mumps, german measles, influenza, chicken pox are all diseases that caused enormous amounts of death and suffering. These are hardly heard of anymore. The reason for this is vaccines.
Attempts at vaccination have been around a long time. Back around the year 1000, there were attempts at vaccination against smallpox in China. This practice spread to the Middle East and Africa. Interestingly, the practice of vaccination was resisted in Europe and North America.
For perspective, pandemics have always existed. The Bubonic Plague in 1347 killed 200 million people. In 1520, smallpox killed 56 million people. As an aside, smallpox eliminated 90% of the Native American population in North America during the 1800s. Currently, COVID-19 has killed about 4.27 million people worldwide.
Many say that these numbers are exaggerated and that anyone who died was said to have died from COVID-19. If people died of COVID 19, they died of COVID 19. They could have had other medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, etc. — but they died of COVID-19. That is like saying that if a plane crashed, people who had diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure died from those diseases. NO! — they died from the plane crash.
Does everyone automatically die if they catch COVID-19? Of course not. Most people recover. However, many have long-lasting symptoms that really decrease their quality of life. The biggest issue so far with COVID-19 is that people can have COVID-19 and not have any symptoms. These people can spread COVID 19 to other people and those other people can die. We now know that even vaccinated people can catch COVID-19 but that their chances are much less and they may only have mild disease. Remember – no vaccine is perfect. Does this mean that we stop using them? Birth control and seatbelts aren’t perfect either — do we stop using those because they are not perfect? The data is pretty crystal clear. Vaccines do help.
But what about all the people who have died from the vaccine? 6,490 people died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. It cannot be determined if the vaccine caused death but that’s how it was reported. Let’s say those 6,490 deaths were caused by people literally exploding after getting the vaccine. Of 346 million doses of the vaccine, that means 0.0019% of people died from the COVID 19-vaccine. Not getting the vaccine based on these numbers is basically the same as thinking you definitely will win the lottery every time you play. (And 615,000 people in the USA have died from COVID)
In the U.S. Virgin Islands, I do not know of anyone dying from the vaccine. I do know that everyone who is in the hospital right now or who have died from COVID-19 were not vaccinated.
In healthcare, nurses and doctors did not sign up to put their lives at risk. Healthcare is not the Armed Forces where there is the reality that you may be killed while doing your job. Unvaccinated people put healthcare workers at risk. However, unvaccinated healthcare workers put patients at risk. There is the thought that testing weekly is a way to protect everyone. We know these tests are not perfect and that people can test negative one day and test positive the next day. Weekly testing will not prevent this.
I must preface that I’m not very religious, but I do not understand exemptions due to religious reasons. I never read any religious text that mentions vaccines. It is concerning to use religious opinion as a reason to do what we want. History is replete with examples of religion being used to justify slavery, war and genocide. Also, there are very few, if any, medical contraindications to the vaccine.
The best way to protect healthcare workers and patients is by vaccination. The risk is way, way higher by contracting COVID-19 than whatever risk vaccination may have. Abandoning patient care is not the answer.
But, as we say, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But are your opinions valid? Just because I have an opinion, does that mean I’m right just because it feels right to me? I travel a lot. Does that mean I know how to fly a plane? If I read a few books on flying, does this mean that I now have the same aptitude, education, training and experience as the pilot who has been flying for 30 years? I think the answer is no.
But that is what we see happening now. Current experts are ignored in favor of internet searches that reveal an outlying scientist who puts forth misinformation or a clip of a fear-causing scenario where the vaccine was created to kill everyone or for population control. If I am not an expert in a field, I cannot listen to different opinions and make up my own mind based on guessing which one sounds right to me. We can all find something on the internet that fits our feelings.
In medicine, as in life, nothing is perfect. But to ignore what experts are finding and to think your feelings are more valid than science is unclear thinking. Or as some people say, “we’re gonna die anyway when it’s our time.” Using this line of thinking, we all should stay home and never leave the house, thus eventually dying of starvation when it’s our time.
The best current thing we can do is get vaccinated. I was vaccinated in December 2020. My family has been vaccinated. I strongly urge my patients to get vaccinated. What has been interesting is that, when someone becomes ill from COVID-19, they most likely will want to seek medical help from the same medical system that they do not trust.
Please get vaccinated.
Joseph DeJames MD, MA, MBA, FAAFP