If you don’t feel like reading one more word about Covid-19, you’ve got my sympathy. However, if you’re inclined, scan this Health Tip and perhaps pick up a fact or two you didn’t know.
Want to jump to my take-away? It’s this: When the vaccine is available to you, take it and thank your lucky stars it’s being offered to you. One in four people on our planet will likely not have access to a vaccine until 2022.
First, a few facts about Covid-19
–It can produce long-lasting symptoms (hence the Covid long-haulers) ranging from unpleasant to debilitating. It’s far more lethal than our yearly flu, which, you may already know, is no walk in the park itself.
–The virus is already very contagious, and new strains are being discovered that cause equally serious illness but are even more contagious than the one we’ve been dealing with for a year.
–Covid-19, which is airborne, is easily spread by people who have no symptoms. Hence the importance of masks, social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding time indoors with those not in your bubble.
–This virus not curable. The current treatments (plasma, antivirals) available to seriously ill hospitalized patients (and the president) may reduce severity but will not cure you.
Second, the vaccine
–The Covid-19 vaccine may be safer than most vaccines you’ve had in the past, mainly because it has zero additives or preservatives and is not made of inactivated virus. With that said, however, our commonly available vaccines (flu, measles, polio) are also very safe.
–Concerning side effects and allergic reactions, in the first 1.8 million doses exactly 21 people had severe allergic reactions, which were quickly halted with the usual treatment of epinephrine and antihistamines.
–Getting vaccinated might prevent you from getting Covid, but at the very least it will reduce the severity of illness if you do happen to get it. So far, the current vaccines protect against the new strains. However, you must continue to wear a mask, distance yourself from others outside your bubble, wash hands regularly, and avoid enclosed spaces that aren’t adequately ventilated. Click here and scroll down for five reasons why.
–The vaccine will not prevent you from spreading Covid-19 if you happen to be a symptom-free carrier (hence, the mask and social distancing even after your injection).
–The current vaccines require two injections, given some weeks apart. Getting only one injection may reduce the severity of any Covid-19 infection you acquire, but your protection is incomplete. It would be like taking half the antibiotics you were prescribed. Note: the vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson & Johnson) requires just one injection. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet received its coveted FDA approval.
–Sadly, studies have shown that almost one third of frontline health care workers are reluctant to take the vaccine. This is genuinely disturbing. When some of these individuals have been interviewed, their reasons are the all-too-common susceptibility to fiction over facts. Before physician Christiane Northrup’s video was removed by YouTube, it had gone viral and likely poisoned the minds of tens of thousands of people who are now at risk for Covid. More on this below.
–The Covid-19 vaccine does not “cause” the illness it’s supposed to protect you from. Many vaccines (the flu vaccine, for example) are made from weakened versions of the disease itself. Covid vaccine is not. For the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, scientists extracted a tiny piece of the virus’s DNA, which when injected is capable of triggering your immune system to produce antibodies that will kill off any invader (ie, Covid-19) with that same miniscule portion of DNA.
–The vaccine does not contain any of the additives that anti-vaxxers claim are problematic—no mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, or other chemicals.
–The vaccine does not alter your own DNA. This insanity came from a doctor I truly respected until now–Christiane Northrup, MD–and who I learned recently has been active in the anti-vax movement. Dr. Northrup, who alleges the vaccine will damage your DNA (it won’t), also alleges the vaccine can render young girls sterile (untrue), contains particles that can be used to track our whereabouts with the new 5G phone systems (no), will be controlled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to collect biometric data that will be traded for cryptocurrency (not true), and will contain a special dye Luciferase (false, but great name) that governments will use to track our whereabouts. All this sounds like a rewrite of a Philip K. Dick novel, quite imaginative but completely false.
–The vaccine will not adversely affect your immune system. This assertion by Joseph Mercola, MD, has virtually no scientific backing, but he does offer to replace your avoidance of immunizations with a lot of products for sale on his website. It’s worth noting that, to date, Dr Mercola is the single largest donor ($2.9 million) to the militant anti-vax group the National Vaccine Information Center.
–The vaccine is not made from aborted fetuses and will not cause autism. During the development of any vaccine, including the ones for Covid, much effort is spent making sure they don’t cause cancer, birth defects, or sterility.
–I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, but by far the most vocal group of anti-vaxxers are not the back-to-the-land, eat-more-granola group, but rather the far-right conspiracy theorists. They don’t “believe” in masks, so it shouldn’t surprise us they don’t “believe” in a vaccine.
On Saturday 3,286 people in the US died from Covid. By comparison, in the Twin Towers disaster of September, 11, 2001, 2,977 people were killed. By the time you read this on Tuesday, total US deaths will have surpassed 400,000 and we have no idea how many of the survivors will be disabled for months with the effects of long-haul Covid.
On the very bright side, it is simply astonishing that scientists around the world worked together to create these vaccines so quickly. Yes, the US is running into snags getting the vaccines into arms, but this situation is improving.
Finally, and happily, it’s clear the Biden-Harris presidency will be one that respects science.
Pay no attention to dangerous conspiracy theories. These are the facts.
David Edelberg, MD