2021 is off and running and one of the hottest topics of the year is the COVID-19 vaccine. It was cleared for use near the end of 2020 with front-line workers selected as the first ones eligible to receive it. It is administered in two doses with 21-28 days between the two depending on whether patients receive the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer or Moderna. Many members of the general population are patiently waiting to be able to get their dosages while others say they have no intention of taking it. As a member of the medical community, I think before you make a decision you should arm yourself with knowledge. Here are some things to consider.
WHAT IS A VACCINE?
A vaccine is a product that stimulates a person's immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease, known as antibodies, just as it would happen when we are exposed to a disease but vaccines work without making us sick. Throughout history, vaccines have been used to stop the spread of several infectious communicable illnesses such as smallpox, measles, mumps, and polio.
Live vaccines are made when some of the components are removed to make it inactive but it still has other components that will cause your body to recognize that it is foreign and it needs to produce an immune response. Therefore, if you ever actually contract the virus your body will have already produced antibodies to attack it before it can cause serious damage to your health.
I often explain it to my patients like this, think of the virus as Al Capone, one of the most notorious gangsters in American history, and the police are your body. Well, to prepare you for a possible attack by Al Capone, the virus medical personnel decide to send in an Al Capone look-a-like that behaves somewhat like the real Al Capone but poses no real threat to your well-being. Thanks to the look-a-like the police (your body) strategize and develop a plan of attack (antibodies). So, when the actual Al Capone virus appears the police (your body) are familiar with him and can attack and apprehend him much easier. Therefore, protecting you from what could be great harm.
Vaccines have been used for centuries. Edward Jenner is the founder of vaccinology in the West. In 1796, he inoculated a 13 year-old-boy with vaccinia virus (cowpox) that demonstrated immunity to smallpox.
Photo Courtesy of: Wellcome Collection gallery (2018-03-29)
In 1798, the first smallpox vaccine was developed. One of the most popular vaccines, the influenza vaccine, came on the scene in the 1940s, after
the flu was first discovered in the early 1930s. Soldiers fighting in World War II were the first patients to receive the vaccine when it was approved for military use in 1945 and civilian use was approved the following year. In 1963, the measles vaccine was developed, and by the late 1960’s, vaccines were available to protect against mumps (1967) and rubella (1969). These three vaccines were combined into the MMR vaccine in 1971.
Based on what we know about vaccines, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may help keep millions from becoming seriously ill if they contract COVID-19.
I know that many people are concerned about side effects. This is a valid concern with any type of medication or treatment not just vaccines. Everyone’s genetic make-up is different and medical experts cannot predict the short-term or long-term side effects of the COVID-19 virus at this time. However, according to the FDA, the most common side effects that appeared during clinical trials involving some 44,000 people were pain where they received the shot, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and joint and muscle pain. These are all described as temporary side effects. Yes, a few people have developed severe reactions but the number is small compared to the large amount of people who received the vaccine.
Many also have concerns about how quickly the virus was developed. Pfizer officials have said the fast-tracking of the vaccine was mostly a result of the upfront financing the federal government provided, and no shortcuts were taken in verifying its safety. I must note that the technology used to create the vaccine has been around for decades at the least. This is not a new process but what is new is the desire to create a vaccine for this particular virus.
WWDDD (What Would Dr. Dorsha Do?)
I feel confident that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe. My wife and I have decided that we are going to take it. The virus is very dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions and my wife is a Type 1 diabetic. I want to take every precaution to keep her safe. I hope that you will take the time to read the research and make the best decision for you and your family as well.