As of last week 72% of American adults have received at least once dose of COVID vaccine. However there are still a lot of people hesitant to get immunized. Overall, the percentage of people who have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine is 67% of Asian Americans, 50% of White people, 45 % of Hispanics, and 40% of Black people and about 32% of Native Americans. The Pfizer COVID vaccine has now been fully FDA approved so what do I say to those who are still undecided? Here is a list of questions I have compiled based on the questions of other patients/parents and available literature.
Who should I believe regarding COVID vaccine? Talk to your trusted doctor. They would be happy to spend as much time with you as you need to answer all your questions. We base our decisions on the latest available data. You can go to the medical website called Up-To-Date and read the latest information on COVID and medicine. We do.
Over 95% of doctors received the vaccine as soon as it was made available to them, and if you focus on those physicians who actually care for COVID-19 patients in their daily jobs it is nearly a 100% vaccination rate.
I am vaccinated. So is my husband and our immediate family. We only had mild to moderate side effects that only lasted a few hours and were gone the next day. And we recommend it to all our family members and friends without any hesitation.
“It was developed too quickly!” No. There were no corners cut in the development of these vaccines, only red tape. The technology for mRNA vaccines has been around since 2002. It was just fast-tracked and given lots of funding (the US government for Moderna and the German government for Pfizer, the British government and charities for Astrazeneca) so it went through the approval process quickly.
“It will destroy my DNA.” The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) will not change your DNA. Once injected, the mRNA is absorbed by the nearest cells but remains outside the nucleus so it does not directly impact your DNA. The mRNA gives instructions to your cell on how to produce the spike proteins like those found on the COVID virus. The mRNA is destroyed after this. These spike proteins made by your own cells then travel to the surface of the cell. Your immune system recognizes them as a foreign substance and develops antibodies against them. That way when your body is introduced to the actual spike proteins of SARS-Cov-2 (COVID virus) your immune system can now quickly produce antibodies against it.
“I do not want to be a guinea pig”. You are not. There were tens of thousands who took that risk as volunteer subjects for the studies prior to approval by the FDA. There are hundreds of millions who have now received it worldwide. So we have real life data on this. The vaccine is safe and effective.
What about myocarditis? Yes, there have been about 50 boys and 12 girls per million who developed myocarditis after the vaccine. However, recent studies have shown anywhere from 500 to 3,000 teens per million develop myocarditis after getting sick with COVID-19. The risk is so much greater with the disease than it is with the vaccine. No contest there.
What about clotting problems? There were extremely rare cases of blood clots in those who received the AstraZeneca and Jansen/Johnson & Johnson vaccines. These were not observed in the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). The overall risk was assessed at 3 cases per million, a little higher risk of 8.8 cases per million in women 30-49 years old.
What about pregnancy? Well, it has recently been approved for pregnancy as well as studies have shown that the benefits outweigh the risks. How will it affect the unborn child? Admittedly there are no studies on that. But how will that unborn child fare if the mother is on a ventilator in the COVID ICU?
What about the unknown long-term effects of the vaccine? We do not know that yet because we do not have enough data. What we do know is that being sick with COVID can produce what is called “long-haulers” patients who have long term or chronic disabilities after the acute illness (foggy brain, fatigue, loss of sense of smell or taste).
We practice evidence-based medicine and recommend only medical practices that have been studied and show reproducible benefits. That means will suggest monoclonal antibody therapy if you or your family members get the virus and are at risk of serious illness, but we will not recommend ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine because there are no studies to prove they are effective.
And what about wearing masks when indoors? Should you still wear it if you are fully vaccinated? Yes. If you’re fully vaccinated your immune system now has antibodies to fight the disease but you can still be infected and not know it. You may pass the virus on to vulnerable adults or children too young to get the vaccine. So mask up.
Lastly, your doctor cares for you and your family. You have trusted them with the health and wellbeing of your family for years. I hope you continue to trust them on this one.
Your neighborly pediatrician,
Emerita A. Pizarro, MD