I come from a family with three generations of doctors. My grandfather was a doctor in Sagar, India. My father earned his degree back in Bangalore as well, before immigrating to the US and opening two successful pediatric offices in Tampa Bay. Even today, my brother is studying medicine at the University of Miami with the hope of becoming a urologist. This means that for my entire life, I have been surrounded by intellectuals with unfaltering knowledge on the medical field. For the most part, the information on various diseases or operations of the human body never really concerned me. If I was sick, my dad would call me in an antibiotic and each year I would receive my flu vaccine as if clockwork. Medical information was never something I had to question and until lately, it was never something I had to debate against either.
Back in December of 2020 was when the first vaccine against COVID-19 was released. At that time, it was a novel solution and quite inaccessible to the general public. I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in January and was amongst the first of my friends to “take the risk”. Truthfully, I didn’t see it as a risk; my father and brother and countless people I knew had already gotten it and besides a sore arm or tired eyes, they reported being fine. Still, I am not one to rely on anecdotal evidence and the experience of a select few can never account for an entire population. It is most important to turn to reliable sources and look at a wide variety of studies to come to a conclusion about the vaccine and by this time, most people have already formed an opinion.
Personally, I am shocked at the number of people who have not gotten vaccinated either out of skepticism or indolence. When I talk to those who refuse the vaccine, I often hear phrases like “I don’t know what’s in it” or “the vaccine came out too quickly” even sometimes going to conspiracies such as “the government is micro-chipping me”. It is astounding how fake news gets circulated so quickly and, unlike other myths, the ones about the vaccine are potentially life-threatening.
The first step is debunking the myths. For a large part, people who say the phrases listed above are set in their ideas and won’t change no matter how many facts are thrown their way. However, with the emergence of the delta-variant and the increase in death amongst younger individuals, some who previously avoided vaccination are realizing their misunderstanding. My hope is that it will not take more death and another wave to make people realize that the only way out of this pandemic is through vaccination — masks and social distancing are preventative (and should be continued), but they are not a long-term solution. Until the majority of the population receives both doses of a vaccine, returning to normal life and lowering cases will become near impossible.
First of all, I would like to say that if vaccination is available to you, which for most is the case, please go get your first dose today. The research done by the CDC and other distinguished institutes including the World Health Organization, Operation Warp Speed under the Trump Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come to the conclusion that “mRNA COVID-19 vaccines offer similar protection in real-world conditions as they have in clinical trial settings, reducing the risk of COVID-19, including severe illness, among people who are fully vaccinated by 90 percent or more” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This means that the yes, the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee that you will not contract the virus, however, it is proven to prevent against severe illness and will more likely result in illness without symptoms (asymptomatic infection).
Another common doubt of the vaccine is that it “came out too quickly”. This does hold some truth since the development of the COVID-19 vaccine greatly surpasses that of the fastest vaccination — the mumps vaccine — which took 4 years to develop. Nonetheless, times have changed since 1967 and there are other factors to consider about the speed at which the vaccine was released in 2020. Firstly, COVID-19 is not the first member of the coronavirus family, which scientists have been studying for years. “According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious DiseasesTrusted Source, there are hundreds of coronaviruses — including four that can cause the common cold, as well as the coronaviruses that sparked the SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, epidemic in 2002 and the emergence of MERS, or Middle East respiratory syndrome, in 2012.” (Medical News Today). In addition, with the growing threat and death toll of COVID-19, the push for a cure was looming over the heads of all major countries. Global cooperation was a vital factor in the rate at which the vaccine was produced. During the vaccine production effort, the technology and communication between nations that is available today was paired with mobilized research to accomplish what was arguably the largest task on the global stage at the time. The combination of all this information leads to a sensible explanation of why the COVID-19 vaccine seemed to be released overnight.
Finally, the topic of conspiracy theories and straight-up myths must be addressed. One such theory claims that an mRNA vaccine alters ones DNA. When reading about it, it is clear why many people believe this. Still, with further research, it becomes known that “The mRNA vaccines do not contain any live virus. Instead, they work by teaching our cells to make a harmless piece of a “spike protein,” which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In short, the vaccine is not changing you, but rather, it is simply helping your body make antibodies which it already does when you are sick. In addition, an alarming number of vaccine skeptics use claims such as “the vaccine makes you magnetic” or “the vaccine is the government micro-chipping you”. No matter how exciting it may be, the world is not a science-fiction movie. The government is not using the vaccine as a way to control its citizens, and more can be learned about the ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccinations authorized for use in the United States. The idea that the vaccine makes individuals magnetic is also a total lie. There is nothing in the vaccine that could create any type of electromagnetic field around those who receive it.
There are also genuine questions and concerns around the vaccine including things like “does the vaccine protect against variants?” Currently, studies have shown the mRNA vaccines to be protective against the rapidly-spreading Delta variant. Overall, vacciness are standing up well to other variants that are threatening immunity. However, “we are in a bit of a race against time because the longer we have large populations who remain unvaccinated, the more likely that new variants are going to continue to arise that will be a problem, that will be more infectious, and eventually that may not be well-served by our current vaccines.” (Greater Than Covid). If such a vast number of our population chooses to remain unvaccinated, the chances of new variants effecting everyone are much higher. If you have any other questions about the COVID-19 vaccination, it is best to seek out professional advice from a number of reliable sources. Since vaccination has become a very politically/socially-charged debate, it is important to not overly-rely on one opinion or source of information.
This post may come as a surprise to my regular readers as I am usually not one to share my direct thoughts or make such controversial statements. Please keep in mind that while this is my own opinion, all the statistics and points made in this post are based on facts and well-conducted research. The COVID-19 vaccine has been available to the public for a total of nine months now. With the surge of new variants and the cyclical mandates/rules, it breaks my heart that so many Americans are still refusing to receive something that not only protects them, but also protects the people they love and their greater community. Looking at things with a global perspective, I have realized how privileged we are to have secure and effortless access to a vaccine. In other nations, people are waiting in treacherous weather conditions for a vaccine, they are selling their possessions, they are fighting for a needle to be stuck in their arm. It is that simple action that will save the lives of so many and allow us to return to life as we once knew it. If you are able to, please get vaccinated because with each person who receives that shot, we are closer to a COVID-free world.
*See list below for resources and information on the COVID-19 vaccine and how to receive yours today*
“The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world.” -Klaus Schwab
- Vaccination Information from the CDC
- ‘How did we develop a COVID-19 vaccine so quickly?’ by Medical News Today
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Vaccines by the WHO
- COVID Vaccines vs. New Variants by Greater Than COVID
- Find a Vaccine Near You from the CDC
- Let’s Get the World Vaccinated by Verified (you can help!)
Featured image by @schluditsch on Unsplash.com