THE DOCTOR IS IN--For months now, I've inquired and urged my grocery store clerks and managers to push for their vaccinations.
Arguably, they deserved vaccination as essential workers as much as medical professionals. Now that they can get it (hooray!), I'm learning that many don't want it (or are just hesitant) as do many of my nurses in my workplaces.
This has been about survival, and as a physician I'm still damned pissed off at how this virus was thrown upon us...and without a good explanation of the origin of something that DESERVES an explanation as much as it deserves a cure, as Politico notes.
But the bottom line is that I don't want anyone to die or suffer long-term disablement, and I've known enough patients and fellow health care workers who've caught COVID-19, and/or who have relatives who suffered and died from this virus to lose focus on our main goal:
But, as aforementioned, the virus, science, and economics all really don't give a damn about my individual or our collective sentiments. The fact is that too many of us did NOT do the right thing, and too many of us let our emotions lead to too much lockdown efforts (especially among those whose financial survival wasn't really affected too much by the pandemic), and too many of us used too little lockdown precautions.
But I am not one of those who decry human nature--I don't like Governors Newsom and Cuomo because they let too many die on their watch with respect to the COVID-19 virus (among other reasons), and I look forward either to their recall or resignation because they're up to their neck in blood--but I respect the fears of Joe/Jane American who don't have my medical training, experience, or perspective.
I also don't get any fame or pay for these articles...just the desire to urge us all to survive motivates me to do these.
I also want us all to get back to a world where masks, social distancing, and both understandable fear and also any overbearing paranoia can be put in our collective rear-view mirror.
I want us to throw away the masks someday!
1) Some of us (actually, MANY of us) are fearful as to which vaccine to take as evidenced by the polls taken and our own personal experience.
The good news is that ALL the vaccines have similar numbers against severe infections (if vaccinated individuals get exposed, they could get it, but the numbers overwhelmingly favor the prospect of a minor if not minimally-symptomatic experience). The Johnson & Johnson (J & J) vaccine is only one shot, has been tested against the newer and more dangerous virus variants, and has similar results against those variants as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
And YES, the mRNA and harmless adenovirus technologies to create our current vaccines are both new and rigidly studied--we're just not familiar with these new technologies being able to fast-track our vaccination development.
2) Polls show that different nations have different perceptions of the vaccines' effectiveness and safety, with Pfizer getting the greatest numbers in the safety polls, Moderna getting a very close second, and AstraZeneca getting a much smaller favorite number.
The U.S. likes Moderna and Pfizer, and the U.K likes Astra-Zeneca, and perhaps national pride and availability play a role there. Yet the numbers supporting safety of the vaccines are as high as 80% in the U.K, while the numbers supporting safety in the U.S. are as low as 60%
3) Health care workers are both more educated and yet prone to human nature as much as any other human being, and therefore have an extraordinary number who bear skepticism and are defiant against any requirement to get a vaccine.
I wish that medical professionals, grocery store workers, and teachers would take the vaccines--any vaccine will do! But I both know that mass vaccinations will increase our chances to throw away our masks, and yet I understand that those choosing to delay or refuse vaccination have the right to do so.
4) Allergic reactions are very rare but DO exist (about 2% or so). Furthermore, anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, a need for hospitalization/intervention) is even more rare...and hence those with a history of allergies are likely NOT be good candidates for vaccination.
Hence the need to stick around for 30 minutes after vaccination, when most of the major side effects occur, and when medical professionals are right there to intervene. If 98% don't have any major vaccination responses, and significantly less get the very rare anaphylaxis response, the need to avoid vaccination is about as low as the need to avoid getting in your car everyday for work, errands, etc.
4) The canard/urban legend that the vaccines out there are not FDA-approved, and are unproven/experimental only, is just NOT true!
The Oxford vaccine made by AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom is being rejected by European nations even though Europe's death/economic tolls are by far greater than those which occurred in the United States.
In contrast, Novavax has just made the grade, with 96% efficacy in avoiding severe COVID-19 infections overall, while only 86%% efficacy against more severe variants of the virus.
Many vaccines did NOT make the grade, and those that do have intense scrutiny before and after their Phase 3 human trials...and despite significant costs and efforts to get their vaccines through Phase 2 and 3 trials.
In other words, we've got another potential wave of vaccinations from Novavax to help us get through this! And the results have been screened through Phase 3 trials (Phase 3 trials are, by and large, MUCH more rigid in its raising the bar fore efficacy and safety than Phase 2 and previous trials).
5) Despite the skeptics, and the doom-and-gloom folks who are ready to use masks and stay indoors for years to come, the potential to throw away our masks and hang out with others is high if enough of us are vaccinated.
Which doesn't mean those who are vaccinated can go and hug strangers, but the era of us getting back to a maskless world by the end of this year is becoming much more realistic.
6) And an important reminder to us all remains the following: catching the COVID-9 virus will only provide on average 4-5 months of protection, while the vaccines tested so far are closer to 1 year...at least!
If you want to throw away your masks...then get vaccinated unless you've a history of allergies, and wait at least 30 or even 60 minutes at your vaccination location to be safe. Do NOT go away from areas of quick medical response for at least 1-2 weeks. Be smart, but be careful (one can do both, right).
7) Seniors, by and large are NOT getting the side effects to the same extent that younger individuals with more vibrant immune systems
Good to know as our seniors are getting vaccinated in droves compared to a month ago.
It would be nice, however, if greater numbers of Americans got vaccinated, because ONLY then can we get enough of a generalized immunity to go back to our 2019 lives.
8) Just because new British, Brazilian, and African viral variants are both rapidly-spreading and downright lethal is both cause for concern and a new addition to our life in a global economy and accessed world.
a) Hence the growing fear that COVID-19 will continue--and as with the influenza virus ("the flu")--the scenario of annual or periodic boosters will be a recurrent seasonal infection is almost certain to evolve into an undeniable reality. Annual shots to keep up with this mutating virus, as with the flu, is something terrible but pragmatic for us all to confront...and I'm so sorry to throw this awful news at you reading this!
b) Do we want our collective mental health to return or not?
6) The science and numbers of states such as Texas, interesting enough, suggest that mask-free and mask-intense states may have the same results.
Do medical professionals and statisticians have good reason to be skeptical about big-city precautions compared to suburbs and rural areas? Well, yours truly is one of those skeptics!
However, there's cause for optimism. Yet while 2020 may be over, but 2021 will be a mixed bag for Americans.
It bears repeating that the virus, science, and economics all really don't give a damn about our individual or collective sentiments... but we can beat this with both courage, knowledge and respect for those who want the vaccine, and those who don't.
Let's just be kind and convincing--and not treat with disdain--those who remain hesitant to vaccination as more time, and more numbers, suggest that those vaccinated will enjoy more rights than those who don't.
I think there is value to examine even a small amount of truth as relates to a possible HOAX or conspiracy surrounding COVID. At the least, some have taken advantage of the situation economically; we may never really every know if any part of COVID was manufactured and how many deaths may have be attributed to other illnesses, not COVID related. Even now experts say that the decrease in new COVID cases is not due to the vaccines. Some say people died in nursing homes because hospitals were sending infected patients to those locations. Speaking of disparity, and no doubt in some small way due to logistics, is it fair that everyone gets the $1400? I feel that those less able should not be treated on the same level as those more fortunate. For example, should a single person who has never stopped working during COVID, get the same amount as someone who has not worked at all during COVID? So I suggest the working person (financial obligations aside) should get the full $1400 but those not working at all should get prorated amounts, like 25% more than the $1400, etc. The person that never stopped working making $40,000 a year, should not be treated the same as the person either getting unemployment or not getting it, and who is six months behind in their rent. The have’s and the have-nots.
I think you have raised a few points that many others agree with. When and how did this terrible virus start? Shall we just take things on face value and not inquire as to the origins of this virus…and have there been convenient coverups? Was the virus exploited for political ends? What about the horrible number of deaths in nursing homes…shall there be consequences or a collective shrug of the shoulders? And certainly those who never stopped working must be on a lower tier and priority than those who got hurled out of work and financially destroyed.
(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.)