December 23, 2020

vaccine concerns are gifts

Vaccines are on most people’s minds right now. Lots of questions are rolling around with not many answers. Rumors abound, so finding reliable sites for info is a good idea. I find this University of Washington article reliable, easy to understand, and helpful. It explains about the two vaccine choices that are available now. It explains what we do know, as well as what we don’t know. We know that vaccines are effective and we know the groups that have priority now to receive the vaccine- health care workers and people living in long term care facilities, like nursing homes. Most of us have seen photos of people across the country receiving their vaccine. I am hoping for mine soon.

We know the benefits- they can protect people from developing a serious case of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated can also help end the pandemic. We don’t yet know if the vaccine prevents you from spreading the virus, so we are still recommending mask wearing and social distancing until we know more. Data is being collected to help us understand more.

And we don’t yet know how quickly vaccines can de distributed. That means we don’t know how long it will take to get people vaccinated. Challenges are already happening in getting enough actual vaccines delivered, as well as organizing the actual injections. The present Administration has not really planned beyond the next few weeks, so the new Administration is working hard to be prepared and have a plan beyond January 20. Already, vaccine distributions varies between states. We are relieved that the COVID relief bill is moving toward approval because then there will be money to pay for the effort and the vaccines.

After the health care workers and people living in long term care facilities are vaccinated, the next group recommended by the CDC are people over 75 and non-healthcare essential workers: first responders, postal workers, transit workers, grocery store workers, teachers and child care workers, agricultural workers, manufacturing workers, corrections workers, school staff. Next people over 65 and those under 65 with high risk conditions, as well as food service workers and bank tellers. Then everyone else over 16. Still no data about children or pregnant women.

This is going to take some time- months really. During that time, we will be competing with the vaccine disinformation system, which will be working hard to convince people to be afraid of the vaccine. This will take ongoing education to combat the disinformation, as I learned at work this week when some of our front office staff questioned the vaccine and shared their concerns about the safety and manufacturing of the vaccines. We need them on board to help with the patient’s questions.

Here are some things that can help when someone has concerns and questions. The benefits of preventing serious COVID infections outweigh the risks of rare side effects. Also, the side effects are being monitored to look for serious reactions. The data shows that even though the president tried, Donald Trump did not ultimately influence the approval process- so far, both vaccines have gone through all of the proper and expected channels. Already, many thousands have had the vaccine and many more are getting the vaccine daily. They are being watched for adverse events. The process was vetted and studied in thousands of patients before approval. Even though it was approved fast, none of the normal approval steps was skipped. Side effects so far are most common on the first day with fever and aches, but no long term effects seen yet. Anaphylactic allergic reactions are very rare, more rare than your chances of being hit by a lightning strike. Catching COVID-19 has a much higher risk of bad outcomes than the vaccine.

Other vaccines are being tested and have taken longer to get approval since they took longer to get their studies up and running. All of them are being monitored and ones that have issues are thrown out, such as this vaccine candidate in Australia which was stopped because it may cause false positive results on HIV tests.

Educating others about the risks and benefits will help. I will be doing an informal class with my staff next week to help them learn and understand so they will not only accept the vaccine but can then be an ambassador to our patients. I understand their fear when considering the whirlwind of accusations swirling around. Acknowledging their concerns as valid will go along way helping them listen and learn about the safety and efficacy.

But the main way to help people decide to be vaccinated is that they can help protect loved ones from catching COVID-19 and help end the pandemic. Concern about loved ones is a big motivator for masking up, too. We can use all the tools we have.

Now that two vaccines are here, people are watching health care workers get their vaccines, more people are saying they will opt in. Hopefully, the numbers of those opting in will continue to rise as more vaccines become available and safety is shown. It will take time, but we are on our way. A good gift in time for the holidays.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, learn about vaccines so you can teach others.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is avail concern for others.