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Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

January 6, 2021

Mark L. Friedman, MD, FACEP, FACP

Three COVID-19 vaccines (developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are being administered across the U.S. While many are eager to receive the vaccine, others may have a few questions. Here’s what you should know.


A Brief History of Vaccines

If these new vaccines make you nervous, it might be helpful to look back at the history behind the science. In the 18th century, Dr. Edward Jenner discovered that injecting his patients with a weaker form of smallpox helped these individuals build immunity to the disease.

Vaccination became so popular and successful during the 20th century that it’s been quite a while since we’ve had to worry about the chicken pox, measles, mumps or rubella, or even more deadly illnesses such as tetanus, diphtheria, and smallpox.

Quite possibly due to the overwhelming success of vaccine programs, many have begun to take public health for granted — even forgetting that vaccines are the very reason we hear so little of the illnesses above.


Safety and Effectiveness

So, is vaccination safe? Can it cause autism or even the diseases it is supposed to prevent? The short answers are: no, and no. The majority of scientific evidence shows that being vaccinated for the diseases commonly recommended is far safer than not being vaccinated.

Are there potential risks associated with taking vaccines? Yes, just as there are potential risks with any medication or medical procedure. The more important question is, “Is it riskier to get the vaccination or the disease?”

 

Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines

It’s true the COVID-19 vaccines have been rushed to approval in record time. But it’s also true that they have been successfully tested on millions of people. The results show that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are:

  • very effective (more than 90%), and
  • relatively safe, with minor exceptions for those allergic to vaccines and potentially mild reactions that last a couple of days.

Those who decide not to get the vaccine, on the other hand, have a much higher chance of catching and spreading COVID-19, which:

  • has a case fatality rate somewhere between 0.3% and 1.8% (depending upon which study you read), with an even higher percentage for older adults and those with serious underlying health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and asthma.
  • causes short- and long-term (weeks to months) morbidity (the presence of disease symptoms) in a significant percentage of those infected.
  • has caused unprecedented economic damage.


Conclusion

What should you do for yourself, your family and your children? Proactively seeking out vaccination from COVID-19 provides the best chance for you and your family to lead longer, safer lives. Doctors and other health professionals — those “in the know” — are already lining up to get their shots. Choosing vaccination when it becomes available to you will not only benefit your personal health, it will also help our entire country to “get back to normal.”

 

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Originally published Jan 6, 2021 9:51:41 PM.