The disease that we will likely recall for the rest of our lives as simply “the Pandemic” has been answered by vaccines that, by any pre-COVID standard, would be viewed as incredibly effective. Reduce spread, reduce severity and do so with stunningly few severe side effects? How can “NoVax” be appealing in that light?
Put another way, as a friend recently asked, if the vaccine is actually a good thing, why have we now had to resort to rewarding those who have been dragging their collective feet with prizes in order to get everyone to finally get a shot?
Some bad pharmaceuticals succeed because of marketing. NoVax appears to have traction because of our over-politicized times.
I could not tell you whether you were for getting a flu shot or if you take a multivitamin by your political viewpoint. Somehow, though, COVID has become more about one’s politics than one’s actual viewpoints on medicine. Most people formed their opinions on COVID not based on actual research, or even their favorite pop-culture level health experts, but on the tweets and memes of their favorite politicians and political action committees.
To be sure, I get hesitancy. When I find myself under the weather, my thought process is along the lines of I’ll just take some Vitamin C and stay clear of the Urgent Care, thank you very much.
For those who only witnessed mild cases of COVID (or none at all), it appears we have been going through the societal equivalent of a yearlong “man cold.” If COVID is much ado about nothing, it makes sense to ask, “Why inject this new vaccine into my body?” Is this all just a ploy against politicians I like?
Sign me up for NoVax, please.
Everything changes — and seems far less bound to politics — when you know people still struggling the better part of the year after catching the virus. It changes when you know people who had their lives cut short by the virus. Suddenly those memes seem hollow.
Knowing those who have died or faced long term symptoms, I want to shout above the partisan rancor, "Please, everyone, get the shot so you don't get a mild case and give it to someone else who isn’t fortunate enough to merely get a mild case.”
Such a cruel virus it is that someone with the equivalent of a minor cold might pass it to someone else — otherwise healthy — who will not survive it. The idea of risking those around us by our Vax or Not decision binds the profoundly personal decision of injecting a novel medicine into one’s body inextricably with care for one’s neighbors and not just one’s personal health.
And the societal implications do not stop with concern of passing your “it’s hardly a cold” case to someone else who ends up ICU or morgue bound. Just as those who irresponsibly use only part of an antibiotic treatment and then stop unwittingly help antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria to form and harm all of us, so too, presenting oneself as a potential host for COVID provides space for new, more virulent mutations of SARS-CoV-2 to show up at our societal doorstep.
Worrisome mutations have already appeared throughout the world. Do we really want to play around until there’s a strain that is unabated by vaccines at all?
If you are reading this as one skeptical to the vaccine, please hear me out for a moment. You were quite possibly one of those who previously questioned the safety protocols around COVID on the grounds that we could not afford to keep them in place for years until a vaccine might be found. You rightly pointed to how we’ve struggled to find vaccines for many diseases and, thus, how planning our entire world around such a pie-in-the-sky hope was risky.
Yours was a relevant point, but in an incredible show of scientific focus and, I would argue, mercy from God, we do have vaccines. In record time.
Now, what do we do with this gift? Do we take it and try to squelch COVID as we have smallpox, polio and other past killers?
I hear you when you say, “but is it safe?” I asked that, too. But, in almost all medical decisions, we weigh risks, we cannot completely avoid them. When the surgeon says, “You have cancer and you need surgery to eliminate it,” both getting the surgery and skipping it come with risks, we just choose the least risky path.
The riskier path in the COVID discussion is the NoVax route. You can do the math yourself to figure this out; you do not need to trust me or anyone else.
Set aside whether the CDC accurately classified COVID deaths or not and simply look at how many more people died last year than other recent years in the United States. This “excess death” statistic — which you can verify against past years yourself — indicates we saw well over half a million people perish last year who would not have otherwise.
The excess death statistic puts aside the well-worn accusation that every car crash death was tagged as “COVID” last year. Excess deaths are those beyond such deaths (unless we had a gargantuan increase in car crashes last year). It is only “extra” deaths beyond the normal amount per year, not COVID deaths that robbed a dying person of one last summer with family or even COVID deaths that kept someone from dying from a car accident a few months later. Just a marker of those who would be living and breathing with us today if not for COVID.
Excess deaths indicates one thing with brutal clarity: the number of Americans who died from COVID was roughly equivalent to the number of Americans who died in combat in all of history.
The pandemic has already robbed us of more lives than not just World War I or II’s deaths in combat, but every single combat death of an American soldier ever.
In contrast to that stunning number — and the equally stunning millions of severe cases of COVID, many of which have left people with permanent disability — consider this: after 156 million Americans have received the vaccine, the CDC Vaccine Reaction database shows 3,280 deaths. That’s a rate of 0.00002%. (Much as critics point out on actual COVID deaths, it should be noted that the Vaccine Reaction database also includes people who died of something else — like a car crash — after getting the vaccine, so the real number is likely lower.)
Any deaths or severe reactions are “too many,” but we are accustomed to those risks with the other medical offerings we depend on every day. Perfect safety is impossible.
Nearly every pharmaceutical commercial on TV runs with seemingly endless disclaimers of death and suffering caused by said drug’s side effects overlayed on incongruously happy scenes of puppies and parties. Imagine if NoVax were advertised in such a commercial.
It would be even more dismal than the worst of those real drug commercials.
It would have to say, “Find out if NoVax is right for you! NoVax may cause permanent, life altering disabilities that can be experienced not only by you but your loved ones. Those who took NoVax as prescribed experienced a 90 fold increase in death over those in the placebo group that received Vax instead.”
No one would go ask their doctor if NoVax was right for them. It’d be obvious.
A year of unavoidable NoVax — since vaccines did not exist — has shown living in an unvaccinated world with COVID present is at least ninety times more likely to kill you than the vaccine is. And if COVID doesn’t kill you, it might disable you. And if it doesn’t do either now, it will continue to mutate and try to kill you, your loved ones and my loved ones later.
And that’s why I hope everyone reading this will give us all a shot at eliminating COVID. I really want COVID to be just a note in history books next to polio and the other horrible viruses of the past.
Please give us all a shot.