I am a retired neurosurgeon. Like over 95% of physicians, I received a vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as I could. I had only a very brief reaction, feeling tired and a little sore for about 24 hours. Now, I feel very safe and secure that, even if I still catch COVID-19, there’s almost no chance that I’ll die from it or need hospitalization. I feel good that I’m protecting myself, my family and everyone with whom I come into contact.
I understand that there are many reasons why about half of Republicans and many others are deciding not to get the vaccine. Let’s walk through some of those.
Perhaps, you believed former president Donald Trump when he suggested that the virus wasn’t anything to worry about, that it wasn’t much worse than the seasonal flu. I hope you’ve come to understand that he was mistaken about that, now that we’re approaching 600,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19, and with cases rising in many of our states. You probably also know that Trump, former vice president Mike Pence, and both of their wives, received the vaccine.
Gov. Jim Justice Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have had theirs. So have Republicans Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Joni Ernst, George W. Bush and most others. They all agree that the way to beat COVID-19 is by being vaccinated. Despite earlier misgivings by some, almost all Republican leaders across the country have received the vaccine and encourage others to do so, as well.
Perhaps you’re concerned about side effects, particularly blood clots. Fifteen women who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine developed blood clots within two weeks of getting the vaccine. Nearly 8 million people received that same vaccine, making the odds of this complication, so far, under 2 in 1 million. That’s less than the normal incidence of similar blood clots in the overall population, suggesting that there might not even be a connection between these rare cases and the vaccine.
The odds of being struck by lightning are around 2 per 1 million. We have had more than 30 million COVID-19 cases among our 330 million U.S. residents. While the risk of getting infected depends heavily on individual circumstances, that suggests that the average risk of getting it here is close to 1 in 10. With nearly 600,000 U.S. deaths, the risk of dying from it after getting it are about 20 in 1 million. Even getting the J&J vaccine would make you 10 times safer than not getting it. There have been no serious complications reported from over 200 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines given. Even if you’re young and healthy, the safety odds still extremely favor your getting any vaccine over taking a chance without it. Why take that gamble?
Perhaps you’re concerned that corners were cut in haste and the vaccines were not developed with standard safety protocols, that these are still “experimental” and not proven to be safe. The only shortcuts taken in the process were bureaucratic, the cutting of some red tape, to allow more rapid review and approval of the finished vaccines. The scientific process for developing the vaccines followed standard safety procedures.
By all appearances, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 100% safe and extremely effective. We might find that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe, as well, and that these blood clots are a coincidence. There is nothing to fear, except for catching the virus and dying without a vaccine, as my brother very nearly did.
The vaccine is now available to everyone over the age of 16, and it’s free, no matter where you get it. I hope you’ll reconsider your reasons for resisting it and sign up for your shots. You will safely protect yourself, your family and friends, and, as a good patriot, the entire country. West Virginia and the nation can return to normal more quickly.