Dear Fellow Weakley Countians,
Recently I was watching the end of a basketball game in which my team was ahead by 15 points. They seemed so certain to win the game that the announcers were already talking about the significance of the win. However, the other team never quit, and my team took their foot off the accelerator, particularly on the defensive end. The other team forced an overtime and won the game in the extra period, much to my chagrin.
Our battle with the coronavirus could be compared to a basketball game. At present we seem to be pulling ahead. This is due to an emphasis on the basics – mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowds. Also, we are receiving a big boost from our new players, the vaccines. The virus, however, is also not quitting. It is remaking itself in an attempt to combat our best efforts to rid ourselves of its scourge. If we take our foot off the pedal, go soft on our mask wearing, forget social distancing, resume large gatherings and fail to take advantage of the vaccines, we risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
The UK variant of the virus is now the most common coronavirus strain in the US. It is more contagious and possible more virulent than the original virus that has caused so much death and misery here. Our mass vaccination program is in a race with this and other variants, the outcome of which is still undecided.
The vast majority of my patients are availing themselves of the vaccines. I generally ask the ones who have reservations about the vaccines what those reservations are. Their responses are varied. Some say they are waiting to be convinced that the vaccine is safe. Many of these are afraid that the vaccine was developed so quickly that corners may have been cut. It is true that the vaccines were developed in record time. This was accomplished, however, not by skipping steps, but rather by performing the steps simultaneously rather than sequentially. No steps were omitted!
Some fears arise from misinformation that has been spread about the vaccines. Misinformation has been a huge problem in our battle with the coronavirus from the beginning. Some misinformation has been spread in the US by nations and peoples who wish to do us harm. In truth, the vaccines do not alter our genetic make-up, do not contain microchips and otherwise do not contain materials known to harm us.
It is true that some people experience unpleasant symptoms such as injection sight soreness, fatigue, aching, fever, headache and other side effects after taking the vaccines. These symptoms generally last one or two or occasionally a few more days. These symptoms do not mean that the vaccines give you the virus. They do not. These side effects are due to your immune response to the vaccines. It has been my experience that persons who already have had the virus are the most prone to side effects from the vaccines. Most people have few or none of these issues after receiving their vaccines. A few people, about 2-5 per million can have more serious, though treatable, allergic reactions to the vaccines. More recently, there have been rare reports of issues with blood clotting associated with the Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines. They are not being administered here in the US while this issue is being investigated. There have been no such issues with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, the ones you would receive locally. Many millions of people have received these two vaccines with no serious, unexpected issues arising.
Some wonder if the virus is a serious enough risk to them to warrant taking the vaccine. If a person is content to stay in, avoid other people and wear a highly effective mask on the few occasions they are around other people, perhaps the answer is no. For any of us who want to return to a life that involves anything like normal contact with others, however, our risks of contracting and becoming seriously ill with the coronavirus are still high. Also, you might consider that another reason to take the vaccine is to help protect others, particularly those who are most vulnerable. We want to help our community and our country reach herd immunity, where we will all be safe from the coronavirus. This virus is real, and its consequences are far from trivial. I can assure you of that.
Other people worry that the vaccines may not be effective against the new strains. So far this is not the case. It is probable that the vaccines effectiveness against some strains may not be the full ninety to ninety five percent seen with the older variants, but they are still quite effective against the new variants. Will there eventually be a strain that the vaccines are not highly effective against? This is possible. Booster vaccines to cover these variants may be required in the future.
Lastly, some people are just leery of vaccines and avoid them in general. I can only say that public health actions, including vaccines, have favorable impacted our lives more than any other aspect of medicine. Diseases like Polio, Smallpox, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies, Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Chicken Pox and Whooping Cough have been virtually eradicated in this country. Control of Flu, Pneumococcal Diseases and Shingles has been much improved, due to mass vaccination. Vaccination is clearly the best and fastest way through the mess we are in right now.
We all have to do our part as individuals and as groups, such as churches, clubs and businesses, etc. Are not wearing masks and not social distancing worth the resultant severe illness and loss of life that the failure to follow these guidelines can cause? We can do this. It’s not that hard. We live in a wonderful community. Taking the vaccine, mask wearing, avoiding crowds and social distancing are all ways we can protect ourselves, our families and this community. We are all depending on each other. Our futures are in each other’s hands.
May God Bless Each of You,
Michael Hinds, MD