I have thought a lot about what I might write to you, my dear patients, about Covid and vaccinations. First, my condolences to those who have lost loved ones to this virus. I have, and I understand. It seems so very random when we lose someone to Covid. It is not like a swath of a city wiped away by a tornado where everyone in the path is gone. It is almost as if these victims were plucked randomly from the populace, even from a single home, and then are suddenly not here anymore. It is so shrouded in misinformation and partisanship that it is difficult to know just what Covid illness is and put it and the vaccines for it in proper prospective. But it can and should be understood without the political spin. That is what I am trying to do here.
I am pro-vaccine, but I am way past judging anyone who is not. I had my Moderna shots in late February. On the one hand, we have about 610,000 Americans dead and on the other we have any number of anecdotal stories about vaccine side effects, even occasional deaths. There have been side effects as there always are to any foreign medicine we put in our body. However, these side effects are generally in the range of single digit occurrences. I consider the most important number in this calculation to be the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are no longer with us. For them, the lack of the vaccine cost them their lives. They are no longer here; they can no longer complain about a sore vaccinated arm or low-grade fevers after a vaccine shot. They are gone. In a certain way, they suffered the ultimate Covid vaccine side effect because it wasn’t available or it wasn’t taken.
In my senior year of residency (many years ago), I was walking past the ICU with my attending, Dr. Woody Kageler, and we came upon a long, orange-colored metal tube just sitting in the hallway. Our mentor, Dr. Kageler, asked if I knew what it was. I did know; I had seen pictures. It was an “iron lung”. It had been used to keep people breathing before our present-day ventilators were developed. People with polio whose respiratory muscles had been paralyzed would lay in those machines and be made to breathe. The machine covered your entire body up to your neck and it had a fairly tight seal around the neck. It would first create a vacuum, then a positive pressure, causing the chest to expand (take air in) and then contract (blow air out). That is how hundreds of thousands of kids were kept alive in the 1950’s. I have seen photographs of huge airplane hangars packed with hundreds of machines, with children (mostly) being kept alive until they could breathe again for themselves. Millions of prayers all around the world ascended to God daily to guide scientists to find a cure. My father and two older brothers came down with mild cases of polio that they recovered from. Although polio was not a part of my life, it was an important trial in my family, as it was for nearly all American families then. When I was in first grade, all of us in my class were lined up and given a sugar cube that a couple of drops of polio vaccine had been dropped on. It was great! Sugar cube?!! I thought this immunization stuff was terrific!! Then the next year it had morphed into a shot after it was found to be more effective. ( Not as great). But there were millions of Americans whose lives were ended or permanently altered because of that fearsome virus before Dr’s Salk and Sabin developed those vaccines.
Now here we are trying to cope with and overcome another virus with the capacity to kill. Where does one go to get non-biased, non-politicized recommendations about what is best to do? I haven’t written until now because I didn’t know either. Some of my kids had me listen to the audio version of a YouTube presentation by a Dr. Zubin Damania last Saturday while we were climbing up to the Darby Canyon Wind Cave. He was entirely apolitical in a way that made the pertinent medical facts jump out clearly. I am including a link to his YouTube presentations and I would ask that you please listen to or watch them. They are each about 15 minutes long, and there are only two that I will link to. Please listen and learn from a physician who is smarter and better at explanation than am I. I want you to be able to see the essential rationale behind immunization to covid-19 without the politics. Then you can make an informed decision. I hope that will be “Yes”, because I want my friends and patients to remain well and informed.
Please write your own responses or thoughts back and I will try to answer scientifically as best I can.
Best wishes to you all, and Stay Well!!