Get Vaccinated, Greater Baltimore, to Leave COVID-19 Behind
Why not? The question shouldn’t be “why should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?” The question should be “why not get vaccinated for COVID-19?” This edition of Region On Point includes resources that provide information about COVID-19, the vaccines available for immunization against the disease and how to schedule appointments for vaccination. First, a brief narrative on why everyone who is eligible to receive a vaccine should get one.
It is a given that the lack of adequate supplies of approved vaccines, logistical challenges in getting the vaccines distributed throughout the country, developing systems for notifying people of eligibility, and issues of equity and accessibility for getting the vaccines to disadvantaged, remote or minority communities has impacted the ability to aggressively attack the spread of COVID-19 across the nation. As these challenges are being addressed, public health experts and the scientific community are hopeful that an end to the pandemic caused by COVID-19 is within reach. However, that optimism depends on achieving “herd immunity” at a national level, a goal that will require approximately 80% of the population getting vaccinated.
While acceptance of the vaccine has grown over the past few months, public health experts estimate “vaccine hesitancy” in 30 – 40% of the population. Putting aside the percentage of the population that refuse vaccines entirely, factors that contribute to the hesitancy surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines range from concerns about the rapid approval process of months compared to the many years it generally takes a new drug to be approved by the FDA, concerns about the possibility of long-term side effects from the drugs that haven’t been identified in the clinical trials to-date, dismissal of COVID-19 as anything more than a cold or flu that will cure itself in time, and distrust in the vaccine and vaccination process by minority communities, particularly the Black population who have experienced mistreatment and significant disparities in access to effective healthcare for decades.
With more effective communication and education addressing all of these factors, the percentage of people willing to be vaccinated will increase. While it is beyond the scope of this article to address and attempt to mitigate the impact of these factors, we offer some facts for consideration.
The vaccines that have been approved to-date will provide immunity from the COVID-19 virus at an efficacy rate of between 75 – 95%. No vaccine for any disease caused by a virus is 100% effective. A case in point is the yearly flu vaccine that has achieved an average of 40% effectiveness since 2003 when health officials began to track each year’s rate. If someone contracts COVID-19 after vaccination the antibodies generated by the vaccine will significantly limit the severity of the disease, nearly eliminating the need for hospitalization. The ability of an individual who has been vaccinated to transmit the virus is also negligible.
Widespread vaccination is also key to curtailing the ability of the virus to mutate, which could potentially erode some of the effectiveness of the vaccines currently available. With a number of mutant strains already identified, the need for a booster shot in the future is a possibility and several companies are already in clinical trials to test boosters should they become necessary.
The potential need for a booster in the future is not a reason to avoid vaccination now and run the risk of contracting COVID-19. The disease does not act like other vaccine-preventable diseases like the flu – many who contract COVID-19 experience long term effects even after the immediate risks of serious illness and death have passed, risks that far exceed that of the flu. Similarly, fear of the side effects from the vaccines themselves, cited as contributing to hesitancy about getting vaccinated, should not be the basis for avoiding vaccination. The side effects from the vaccination shots themselves – such as body aches, low grade fever and fatigue for a few days – are far less severe than the often debilitating and long-lasting effects of contracting COVID-19.
We come back to the questions we started with – why not get vaccinated? Hopefully, as issues that contribute to vaccine hesitancy are effectively addressed, more and more individuals will answer this question with “There is no valid reason to avoid vaccination against COVID-19.” Get Vaccinated, Greater Baltimore. Together we will leave COVID-19 behind.