Guest column: An appeal to Republicans and others reluctant to take a COVID-19 vaccine
I am a retired neurosurgeon. Like over 95% of physicians, I received a vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as I could. I had only a very brief reaction, feeling tired and a little sore for about 24 hours. Now I feel very safe and secure that, even if I still catch COVID-19, there’s almost no chance that I’ll die from it or need hospitalization. I feel good that I’m protecting myself, my family and everyone with whom I come into contact.
I understand that there are many reasons why around half of Republicans and many others are deciding not to get the vaccine. Let’s walk through some of those.
Perhaps you believed President Trump when he suggested that the virus wasn’t anything to worry about, that it wasn’t much worse than the seasonal flu. I hope you’ve come to understand that he was mistaken about that, now that we’re approaching 600,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 and with cases rising in many of our states. You probably also know that he, Vice President Pence and both of their wives received the vaccine. So did Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Joni Ernst, George W. Bush and most other Republican leaders. They all agree that the way to beat COVID-19 is by being vaccinated. Despite earlier misgivings by some, almost all Republican leaders across the country have received the vaccine and encourage others to.
Perhaps you’re concerned about side effects, particularly blood clots. Fifteen women who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine developed blood clots within two weeks of getting the vaccine. Nearly 8 million people received that same vaccine, making the odds of this complication, so far, under two in a million. That’s less than the normal incidence of similar blood clots in the overall population, suggesting that there may not even be a connection between these rare cases and the vaccine.
The odds of being struck by lightning are around two per million. We have had over 30 million COVID-19 cases among our 330 million U.S. residents. While the risk of getting infected depends heavily on individual circumstances, that suggests that the average risk of getting it here is close to one of out 10. With nearly 600,000 U.S. deaths, the risk of dying from it after getting it are about 20 in a million (600,000/30 million). Even getting the J&J vaccine, you would be 10 times safer than you would be not getting it. There have been no serious complications reported from over 200 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines given. Even if you’re young and healthy, the safety odds still extremely favor your getting any vaccine over taking a chance without it. Why take that gamble?
Perhaps you’re concerned that corners were cut in haste, and the vaccines were not developed with standard safety protocols, that these are still “experimental” and not proven to be safe. The only shortcuts taken in the process were bureaucratic, the cutting of some red tape, to allow more rapid review and approval of the finished vaccines. The scientific process for developing the vaccines followed standard safety procedures. By all appearances, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 100% safe and extremely effective. We may find that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe as well and that these blood clots are a coincidence. There is nothing to fear, except for catching the virus and dying without a vaccine, as my brother very nearly did.
The vaccine is now available to everyone over the age of 16, and it’s free, no matter where you get it. I hope you’ll reconsider your reasons for resisting it and sign up for your shots. You will safely protect yourself, your family and friends and, as a good patriot, the entire country. We’ll return to normal more quickly.
George Bohmfalk, M.D., is a retired neurosurgeon who splits his time between Carbondale and the Southeast.
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