March 7, 2021

Hope

Vaccines are spreading quickly. Almost 60 million people in the US have received their first jab. The IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) have lowered their estimates of deaths by July 1st to 576,000, down from 614,000 on February 19. This is only(!) 50,000 more deaths than we have now. Still more than we need, but much less than expected due to the efficacy of the vaccines.

Many of the roadblocks to delivering the vaccines into arms are resolving. More doses are being delivered and most states have been able to expand the vaccines to the ones most in need. I am aware of more and more of my patients, friends, and family being vaccinated. It is a relief to me. I feel joy whenever I find out someone has had their shot.

Our next biggest obstacles are helping those that are vaccine hesitant decide to get a vaccine. We may not make much progress with people who are already vehemently opposed to immunizations, but we can help those that are skeptical of these new vaccines. Even many health care workers struggle with the idea of a vaccine because of how fast they were developed and approved. This editorial from a doctor in Australia illustrates her skepticism, mainly because she did not understand the methods used and she lived in a country that has been able to contain the virus better than most. She called herself a “conscientious objector”, but then she researched and learned more about the process. Ultimately she changed her mind and got vaccinated. Her story is helpful to hear. Another tale is about how we increase vaccine resistance by having “moral judgements” about people who are vaccine hesitant. Often our judgements and criticism have the opposite effect and we accidentally pushed people away from the vaccine, rather than calling them in. These are reminders to be careful in our assumptions and our language.

These conversations are difficult and challenging to have. I have learned to approach my vaccine hesitant patients carefully and with curiosity. In doing so, they open up to me about their fears and concerns. Often, I can then explain the science and research approach and help them feel safer about opting in for a vaccine. Answering their questions fully and without judgement works well. I like the graphic from king County Health Department that shows some of the scientists who developed the vaccines, which makes the science more real and less scary.

The big reason I want my friends and family fully vaccinated is to be able to drop my concern for their health and be able to hang out together in safety. Yes, we do not have data yet that shows the vaccine prevents spread of the disease, but the data clearly shows huge decreases in severe illness or death in those vaccinated. Even Fauci agrees that it is possible to have a small gathering with a group who are all immunized and at least 2 weeks past their second vaccine (or 6 weeks if it was Johnson & Johnson’s one dose vaccine).

The more vaccinations given out, the faster we can be together.

But now, of course, comes news about the security needed to transport vaccines due to risk of theft. A problem already in Europe where the vaccines may be stolen out of the back of a truck, like something out of a movie. It is always something, isn’t it?

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six and get your new jab. We can meet up soon.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america?view=total-deaths&tab=trend

https://www.renalandurologynews.com/home/news/ethical-issues-in-medicine/conscientious-objector-covid-19-vaccine-hesitancy/

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/04/world/australia/covid-vaccine.html

https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/covid-19/~/media/depts/health/communicable-diseases/documents/C19/key-researchers-COVID-vaccine-EN.ashx

https://www.mdlinx.com/news/can-vaccinated-people-still-spread-the-coronavirus/3UQc2MxkhexFQgIMkxhibx

https://nypost.com/2021/02/26/dr-fauci-says-people-with-covid-vaccine-could-soon-socialize/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-02/covid-vaccine-delivery-gets-extreme-secrecy-and-security