US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued his first official health advisory last week, warning Americans that misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines poses an “imminent and insidious threat to the health of our country.”
These advisories are generally used to point out the dangers of tobacco use or the opioid epidemic. Murthy’s was the first to target vaccine misinformation.
“Simply put, health misinformation has cost us our lives,” he said.
The surgeon general’s warning came as the reluctance of many Americans – and at times their outright refusal – to roll up their sleeves for vaccination has left large swathes of the country vulnerable to the more contagious Delta variant.
“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” President Biden lamented last week.
Now, the overwhelming majority of deaths from COVID-19 are among those who have not been vaccinated.
“It’s really sad and tragic that most of them are preventable and preventable,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press”. .
Yet disinformation continues to circulate and vaccine doses remain unused. So we asked two experts to assess four common arguments and explain why they are wrong.
“I’ve had COVID before, so I don’t need the vaccine.”
Surviving an episode of COVID-19 probably won’t protect you as effectively as a full course of COVID-19 vaccine, experts say.
“We know that the level of antibodies one gets from a natural infection varies depending on the severity of one’s infection,” said Mercedes Carnethon, epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. On the other hand, “we get a more robust and consistent response from the vaccine.” This makes it a better bet “for immunity over a long period of time,” she said.
It is also not known whether the antibodies you have developed in response to a coronavirus infection will be able to recognize other variants of the virus.
“Someone who had COVID at the start of the pandemic may have had a very different variant than the one currently circulating,” Carnethon said. “The vaccines show that they protect against the new variants. “
Even if you’ve had COVID-19, getting those snaps is worth it. Scientists have found that even a single dose of the vaccine gives a big boost to the immune system of a COVID-19 survivor.
“We don’t know the long-term side effects of the vaccine. “
Historically, the vast majority of vaccine side effects occur soon after injection, said Dr. Gabor Kelen, chief of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University. Allergic reactions, which are rare, occur within moments; most other side effects appear and go away within a few weeks.
“People need to relax about the long term impact,” Kelen said. “The way immunology works is [if] something is going to happen, it’s going to happen pretty soon, ”he said.
What you should really worry about are the long-term effects of a coronavirus infection, Carnethon said. She checked off some of the issues that plague the unfortunate people who suffer from long-term COVID, including heart inflammation, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties.
Throughout history, she said, “no vaccine has had worse side effects than the disease it was developed against.”
“I don’t need to be vaccinated because I am young and healthy.
Young people may be less likely to get seriously ill than the elderly or those already struggling with chronic health conditions, but it does happen. The young people meet in the hospital. They die. If they survive, they often have to live with debilitating symptoms for months or longer.
It’s not worth taking the chance, especially when vaccines are free for recipients and readily available, experts said.
“Everything will be fine, unless it is,” said Carnethon. “And it’s young adults who see long-haul COVID a bit more, which can massively interfere with your quality of life.”
In some ways, the bigger problem is that young adults with mild symptoms can pass the virus on to others – especially to their elderly and vulnerable loved ones, who are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 and to have it. pass away.
“You will finally give it to a friend [who] are going to get very, very sick, or make their grandma very, very sick, ”Kelen said. Ultimately, “you have no idea who you are killing.”
“It’s a personal choice to get vaccinated.
“If that was all there was to do I think we could all shake our heads and say, ‘OK, you’re right, we can’t stop you from making bad decisions, we can just give facts and advice, ‘”Kelen said.
But the problem with that argument is, “this is an infection where it’s not all about you,” he said. “If you don’t get the vaccine, it’s not just you who are taking the risk. You are risking a lot of people around you, including people you love and love. “
In addition, people who do not get vaccinated give the coronavirus more opportunities to evolve in a way that it spreads better, makes people seriously ill better, and better evades our drugs and vaccines. If any of these things happen, it will prolong the pandemic.
“We all want to get back to normal. We all want to be able to do the things that we could do on a regular basis, ”said Carnethon. “But by not getting the vaccine, there is now someone else it can spread to and transform further.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.