For yourself and for your community: Why you should get vaccinated against COVID-19 when you can

Protecting our friends and neighbors is every person’s responsibility. Never has that duty been more vital than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our state currently ranks third in the nation for virus-related hospitalizations, according to a White House Coronavirus Task Force report issued in December.

 

Although several vaccines have been approved for distribution to the general public in 2021, disinformation has made the choice to get vaccinated unusually convoluted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms we will need a vaccination rate of at least 70% to avoid future community spread.

 

Falsities circulating on social media about the vaccine hamper our society’s ability to resume normal life. We can all agree that COVID-19 has changed our lives, from the ways we work and study to the activities that make us who we are, like church and sports attendance. For others, it has permanently altered families, with death, grief and devastating medical debt. Through the same approval protocol used to vaccinate against many diseases, the vaccine offered to the public will be safe, effective and the main component in being able to move forward.

 

As a family medicine doctor, I chose to return to Oklahoma after completing my residency in Kansas to serve the community that raised me. I want to see my family members and friends living healthy lives in the town we share, instead of seeing them among the patients that come into health system clinics. Individuals getting vaccinated will decrease the burden of COVID-related admissions and emergency room visits on medical facilities and improve access to care for people experiencing other health emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes and life-threatening medical events that require personnel and supplies for treatment.

 

Guidelines for COVID treatment and vaccinations are rapidly changing. Currently, the only absolute contraindication to getting the vaccine are allergic reactions to the mRNA vaccine itself or its components.

 

The general recommendations at this time for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, are immunocompromised due to a health condition or medication, or have an autoimmune condition, is to consider receiving the vaccine after discussing the risks and benefits with your doctor.

 

By getting the vaccine, we contribute to herd immunity. When enough of a population becomes immune to a disease, it decreases the spread of the disease, providing protection for the entire community.

 

I had the opportunity to be vaccinated Dec. 17 during the first wave of immunizations available for healthcare workers. The process was simple and I was provided with explanatory handouts about the vaccine that included an overview, possible side effects and a list of its ingredients.These handouts are available now at the Oklahoma State Department of Health website.
 

After vaccination, I stayed at the facility for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine so the personnel could monitor us for any immediate allergic reactions.  I also received a QR code with information about VAERs (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) with a direct link to the website to report any symptoms to researchers tasked with continually monitoring the vaccine.

 

While I noticed some pain at the injection site for a few days, it was very minor. I also experienced some mild fatigue that evening followed by morning headaches for a couple of days that went away with some coffee and ibuprofen. If you’re like me and experience some mild side effects, that is still much better than getting COVID or passing it along to someone who cannot recover as well as you do. I have heard that the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine has more side effects than the first but remain confident that it is still preferable to experiencing the virus and possibly spreading it to others.

 

After getting vaccinated, I updated my status on my own Social Media platforms and noticed that my followers began asking a series of similar questions, like “What’s actually in the shot?” and “Can I get sick with COVID-19 from having the vaccine?” The public should know that these immunizations do not contain preservatives and actually have pharmaceutical ingredients that are various forms of fats, sugars and salts, along with the mRNA protein component. The vaccine does not use a live virus and cannot give you COVID-19. The symptoms you feel after are not COVID itself but your body’s reaction to the protein in order to build immunity. The vaccine is not thought to increase risk of infertility, based on the mechanism action of the vaccine and its safety profile.

 

While efficacy and side effects are similar between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Pfizer’s vaccine is given in two doses three weeks apart and the Moderna vaccine’s doses are given one month apart. If you have questions about the vaccine, talk with your doctor. She or he can point you in the direction of reputable data from experts.

 

Please, have a little faith in us as doctors and trust the science that prevents you from ever getting sick enough to need us. Medical professionals are getting vaccinated and we are here to help — but I hope you will choose to protect yourself and others as well. The vaccine is the best way currently that we know how.

_______________________________________________________________________

Dr. Raghuveer Vedala is a family medicine specialist with the OU Health Services Family Medicine at OU Health Science Center and member of the Oklahoma Alliance for Healthy Families whose mission is to provide science-based information about vaccines.