Most of the people who debate COVID-19 vaccination are not physicians. Of those who are, not all have treated COVID-19 patients. I have.
As soon as COVID-19 vaccines became available, my entire practice was vaccinated. One elderly patient was not because he was hospitalized in another state. He acquired COVID-19 there and died.
With the availability of testing and treatment, I have routinely tested patients who were symptomatic or exposed to the virus. Before October 21, none of my patients tested positive for COVID-19.
That changed two weeks ago when I saw a married couple in my office. Both patients were in their mid-70s and symptomatic. After both tested positive, I sent them for outpatient treatment with IV Regeneron. They were asymptomatic in a few days and felt much stronger when examined two weeks later.
I also examined a 90-year-old with a chronic cough and sinus congestion. She reported being exposed to a child with COVID-19 three days earlier. She also reported spending the past two days with her 65-year-old daughter, who is receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, and her 65-year-old son-in-law who has chronic sinusitis. When called, the daughter was asymptomatic and the son-in-law had sinus congestion.
Neither the 90-year-old nor son-in-law received a COVID-19 booster, but the daughter received a full-shot booster a month earlier. The mother and son-in-law tested positive for COVID-19, but the daughter tested negative. The mother and son-in-law were sent for outpatient Regeneron treatment, and both felt stronger one week later. The daughter remained asymptomatic.
Elsewhere, a 50-year-old unvaccinated patient from another practice was hospitalized with COVID-19. When his condition deteriorated, his physician tried to transfer him to a larger hospital. Unfortunately, there were no beds in any hospital in the four closest cities. The patient was eventually transferred to a hospital two hours away. He died there.
The moral here is each of my patients was protected by the COVID-19 vaccine. Although four tested positive for COVID-19 eight months after receiving their second vaccine and before a booster could further protect them, none of the four became seriously ill as would have been expected in unvaccinated patients of the same age and with similar conditions.
The four patients probably experienced breakthrough COVID-19 infections because of waning vaccine protection. The patient with breast cancer who received a booster probably did not become infected because she was fully protected.
Nearly four billion people have been vaccinated worldwide, and fewer than one thousand may or may not have died from vaccine side-effects. This demonstrates outstanding vaccine safety.
Some side effects have occurred following vaccination, but nearly all the patients survived. Patients who acquired COVID-19 have not fared as well. To date, more than five million people have died from COVID-19 worldwide. Please vaccinate.
Bernard Leo Remakus is an internal medicine physician.
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