COVID-19/Vaccination Update: Science, Not Politics, Will Get Us Past This Pandemic!

THE DOCTOR IS IN--Sometimes I wonder if this nation really does want to get on with our lives and past this pandemic...or at least whether its political leadership wishes to resolve and move on from this dreadful interruption in all of our lives. 

And because the worst of COVID-19 is likely not going away until 2022, and like the flu may last indefinitely.

While it certainly is human nature to exploit a disaster, there are limits to what American citizens will tolerate with respect to not doing the right thing, and make Goal A mismatch Problem B.

Furthermore, choosing the wrong approach can destroy one's political career. This pandemic, kept under wraps and without addressing it based on scientific principles, arguably ended President Trump's re-election chances...and the once-popular Governors Newsom and Cuomo might just be walking in Trump's footsteps.

(And if newly-elected President Biden wants to infuriate Americans who want jobs and honest transitioning from his predecessor, and to not just go in opposition to even the good things his predecessor did with respect to the economy and foreign policy, the current occupant of the White House might be a very unpopular President sooner than he ever anticipated.)

Let's recap the latest in our fight to vaccinate America and achieve "herd immunity:

1) Anecdotally, virtually all my senior citizen patients have reported NO side effects from the vaccinations, and this has been borne out by the literature and overall reporting to date. Why? Probably senior citizens' declining immune systems. 

2) The same above link from the AARP reports that in contrast, quite a few of us "young-uns" get reactions that respond well to Motrin/Advil (same medication--ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) AFTER the symptoms begin in earnest (pain at the vaccination site, diffuse aches and pains, low-grade fever, and enlarged lymph nodes

But do NOT take those medications BEFORE the symptoms--you WANT those symptoms to know you're responding and establishing an immune response. Remember that:

  1.  a) You feel bad after a cold because YOUR BODYis making substances to deactivate, neutralize, or kill the offending virus, not the virus itself. So, feeling bad with a vaccination is a bummer, but is actually a "good" thing.
  2. b) You know you had a good workout at the gym(for those of us who remember what the "gym" was prior to the pandemic) when your muscles hurt the next day. Same idea as a vaccination reaction. 

3) It's convenient to get an effect after one dose of a given vaccine, but that doesn't mean it's better or smarter to take that vaccine over others:

  1. a) A new vaccine in Israel(BNT 162b2) had vaccine effectiveness of 46% after one dose/shot, and had up to 92% after the second dose. Symptomatic illness was 57% after the first dose, and 74% after the second dose, to prevent hospitalization...but as with other vaccines, you must wait for 7-14 days before the vaccine's benefits fully occur.
  2. b) The newer Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine has less effectiveness than either the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but has insufficient information to draw conclusions on efficacy (effectiveness) for people older than 75.
  3. c) The Pfizer vaccine is evaluating a THIRD dose for the newer variants of COVID-19. Apparently, my prediction of the need for annual and indefinitely-needed booster shots is turning out to be correct...although I damn well wish I was wrong!  

4) Closing school is NOT evidence-based, and harms children, according to the British Medical Journal.  Some teachers clearly need protection more than others, but teachers' unions shutting down schools in major cities are NOT following science...or at least NOT following the right science. 

5) We'll never get to "Covid-Zero”, but life can and will and must go on.   

  1. a) Hence the sin of NOT taking measures for safety is as awful as overdoing those measures, or to create "feel-good measures" that destroy peoples' economic and psychological lives.
  2. b) The CDC estimated a one-year decline in life expectancy ... try five days.
  3. c) That said, nursing homes are ground zero for the COVID-19 pandemic.Both Cuomo in New York and Newsom in California, as well as others, are horribly guilty of letting this "thinning of the herd" happen on their watch.
  4. d) The COVID-19 is allowing the opioid crisis in our nation and elsewhere to explode out of control, and its effects on this crisis are very, VERY real.

6) Preventing family from visiting patients with COVID-19 is unnecessary, cruel and inhumane according to the British Journal of Medicine. 

I never thought that having COVID-19 patients die alone, when hospital gowns and protective equipment and gear could prevent transmission from visiting family members was medically indicated or appropriate, and apparently I'm not alone...so to my medical colleagues: STOP making COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths worse than they already are!


7) The COVID-stimulus bill is NOT "bold COVID relief to Americans nationwide", and Americans are on to that pork and enabling cities and states to spend and budget poorly helps a few of the American political elite, but won't help you, me, or your neighbors.

Trump is out of power, and some of our nation's most powerful governors are quite possibly on their way out of power to boot. The economy and the science are NOT mutually exclusive.

So, the big question remains at large: DO WE WANT TO GET PAST THIS PANDEMIC...OR NOT?


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He was termed out of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) twice after two stints as a Board member for 8-9 years and is also a Board member of the Westside Village Homeowners Association. He previously co-chaired the MVCC Outreach, Planning, and Transportation/Infrastructure Committees. He was previously co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee, the grassroots Friends of the Green Line (which focused on a Green Line/LAX connection), and the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Ken.Alpern@MarVista.org. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)