“It alters your DNA.”
“It may cause long-term problems.”
“It’s too new, too rushed. I want more time.”
I hear this nonsense from patients all day.
None are docs, virologists, microbiologists, immunologists, public health officials, medical researchers, nor intensive care docs. COVID can kill them in a particularly unpleasant way; with 99 percent+ effectiveness, the vaccine prevents them from dying from COVID, but they still recite a litany of scientifically illiterate reasons for not taking it.
They’ve “researched” the COVID vaccine.
I’ve had enough. I’m tired of silently cursing behind my mask.
In my 42 years in medicine, I’ve tried to be understanding, compassionate, and honest with my patients. COVID has successfully minimized the “understanding” part.
COVID is spreading worldwide, the virus replicating trillions of times every hour. Inevitably, a new variant will evolve, which may not be susceptible to current vaccines. Then we’re right back starting this crap all over again.
The only way to arrest the spread and prevent a nasty variant from evolving is to immunize most of the world. Not just Texas or the U.S, but the entire world’s population. COVID doesn’t care who it infects or where they live. It lives to replicate and evolve. Then it hops a flight inside the nose and lungs of a passenger landing in Houston, and off we go again.
From a virology standpoint, COVID has proven that we really are one world by drilling itself directly into our lungs. It’s not us vs. them; it’s us vs. a virus. The virus is our opponent, not our fellow humans.
There are some things we can do about this mess:
1. First, become immune to the virus. By immune, I don’t mean you can’t test positive or even catch COVID after being vaccinated. I mean that, with 99 percent certainty, you won’t die from COVID after you are fully vaccinated. Keep in mind what the vaccine does. It’s not important if you are vaccinated and get a mild illness that lasts a few days. What is important is that you don’t end up in the ICU on a ventilator and/or dead from COVID.
2. Understand the science behind the CDC recommendations, Dr. Fauci, and, most importantly, your doctor. And I don’t mean the “doctor” who believes that endometriosis is caused by having sex in your dreams with demons. Not the “doctor” who warns against vaccines and/or treats infected folks with tree bark or bird shit because they are “natural.” Those folks do not deserve the title “doctor”; they are medically illiterate quacks. They can literally kill patients with their recommendations, and they don’t seem to care. From what I recall from the Hippocratic oath, that’s contrary to its dictum.
3. Wear a frickin mask. It works; it’s not hard. Have you had the flu this season? Probably not, and most of your friends haven’t either. Me neither. Could it be that masks work even for the flu? Think about that; it’s not a hard question. Masks work. They are a pain, but we surgeons have worn masks for many hours at a time in the operating room. We don’t get light-headed and pass out, falling face-first into a big ole incision. Nothing happens except we don’t infect our patient’s wounds with all the bacterial/viral stuff that comes out of our mouth and/or nose during the case.
And don’t get me started on the “freedom” thing. Just call it a “Freedom Mask,” put a little American flag on it, and everyone will want one. We could also wrap the vaccine syringe in bacon; then everybody would line up for a shot.
4. Listen to the doctors, and I mean the real doctors (see #2).
5. Keep in mind that this is a worldwide problem that will affect us unless we work together. That working together thing is not real popular right now in the U.S., but with COVID, it needs to be. Set all politics aside with COVID; work with and respect your fellow human beings. Like it or not, we are in this thing together.
I have committed myself to discussing the vaccine with every unvaccinated patient who comes to my office. It takes about 15 minutes to discuss their concerns calmly and rationally. Fortunately, the majority understand and say they will get vaccinated. Maybe they are just saying that to shut me up, but I don’t get that feeling.
To those few that respond to the question, “Why have you chosen to not get vaccinated?” with “It doesn’t matter what you say, I’m not taking it!” I give up. You win. You could, however, lose. You could end up dead, a bloated reservoir for the rapidly evolving virus. If you don’t end up dead, you can transmit COVID to your unvaccinated kids, parents, grandparents, and friends. Any one of whom could die. And it’s entirely preventable.
Are folks who refuse the vaccine stupid? Ignorant? Arrogant? No, not necessarily. They are simply ill-informed. Why? Social media, politics, scientific illiteracy, lack of critical thinking skills, “freedom,” etc. There are way too many reasons, but none matter now. This isn’t a political game, a simple “difference of opinion,” nor a power struggle. It’s not a matter of “freedom” nor a religious issue. Unlike other freedoms we enjoy, this decision carries implications for the entirety of society, not just one person. That makes it everyone’s business, not just the vaccine refusers.
Medicine is a partnership between myself and my patients. They talk, I listen; I talk, they listen. My responsibility, however, is to tell them the truth, regardless of what they want to believe or Google told them. I take that very seriously and consider myself a true advocate for my patients. I don’t give a rat’s ass about politicians, insurance companies, Facebook experts, nor quacks. I care about my patients. That’s what I do.
Alan Johns is an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com