Dr. Thomas K. Lew
I have been seeing a lot of posts on social media these days disparaging the utility of the COVID-19 vaccines. They attempt to poke holes in the logic of these inoculations with innocuous sounding questions: After the shot, can you still get COVID-19? Can you still pass the virus? Do you still need to wear a mask and socially distance?
The answers are yes, yes and yes, but these questions are not justifications for not getting the vaccines. That is faulty reasoning. Especially now that the Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, we need to fight disinformation campaigns and change our message. Widespread use of the vaccine is the best way to stop this pandemic, save lives, and return to normalcy.
If our everyday lives cannot change immediately after the shots, why take them? The answer lies in their ability to stop severe COVID-19 infections that lead to hospitalization and death. In fact, the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 100% protective in preventing either of these two outcomes, in a disease that has claimed half-a-million lives and counting.
A modern scientific miracle in Israel
The Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech vaccines were also protective in trials and have proven their worth in widespread use. The latter led to a 92% decrease in hospitalizations in Israel after wide rollout. This is astounding and nothing short of a modern scientific miracle.
And this is the message that we should spread throughout the nation. These vaccines save lives. Period. To be sure, the pandemic seems to be dying down, but it was only two months ago that, as an internal medicine doctor, I was seeing my hospital wards filled with people — old and young alike — gasping for air from COVID-19.
I still have a few patients who are either on ventilators or suffering the long-term effects of the virus; they weren’t able to get the vaccine in time. I’m sure my middle-aged patient, who can’t even complete a sentence without running out of breath, would have jumped at the chance for a shot if she had been eligible weeks ago.
Don’t hold out: Take whatever COVID vaccine you can get. All of them stop death and hospitalization.
The point is, we should focus on the fact that the vaccine will unclog hospitals and prevent death. Can you still get COVID? Yes, but the chances are very small, and if you do, it’ll likely be a mild case — more annoying than life-threatening. Can you still pass the virus? Theoretically yes, but the emerging data seems to indicate the chances are much lower. Do you still need to wear a mask and socially distance? Yes, in public, but only until vaccinations are more widespread. This is to protect our most vulnerable citizens.
Vaccines put us on path to normalcy
But with all the impressive effectiveness data, Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said it is safe for vaccinated individuals to meet for dinner — and that he intends to invite his daughter over and give her a big hug when she’s fully vaccinated. With the support of the vaccines, we can take another step forward to normalcy.
Nurse:I’m correcting COVID conspiracy theories inside and outside the hospital
There has been an unbelievable amount of literally incredible “information” about these vaccines, from microchips to DNA-altering compounds. But the most dangerous are those seemingly innocent questions that are just rational enough to tug on our logic for taking the shots.
These social media posts always end by asking you to do your research. I agree, we need to be well-informed, but take recommendations from accredited scientists and doctors. All should be focusing on the message that these vaccines will end the pandemic sooner by reducing the chance of life-threatening COVID-19 infections and ultimately saving lives.
Dr. Thomas K. Lew is an assistant clinical professor of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and an attending physician of Hospital Medicine at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare. All expressed opinions are his own. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasLewMD