Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?
The 2020 outbreak of the COVID-19 (or Coronavirus Disease) spun the world out of control. It impacted nearly all aspects of our lives. The pandemic caused sickness, death, and misery worldwide. But there does seem to be the light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines began to roll out in late 2020. As the vaccine becomes more available, people are left with the question, "Do I get the vaccine or not?"
Obviously, everyone faces circumstances specific to their lives. Some are front-line medical staff working with COVID patients. Some are stay at home moms whose children have finally gone back to school. Others are essential workers at factories, gas stations, and supermarkets. In fact, if COVID taught us anything, it taught us just how many people are essential to keep society running. And as much as we may want to, most of us simply cannot remain in our homes 100% of the time.
Because we all face individual circumstances, the question as to whether you should be vaccinated becomes very personal. Only you and your family know the details of what you face every day. For those with other medical issues, a consultation about the vaccine with your doctor is certainly a good idea. But ultimately the decision is yours.
Below are some pros and cons of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
- There were large clinical studies: Although the vaccine was developed quickly, the clinical trials included a large number of people. Pfizer's mRNA vaccine included 43,548 participants. They came from six countries, and represented a cross section of races, people who were both healthy and out of shape or had coexisting medical conditions. That is particularly good news because it's a fairly large study.
- There are few short-term side effects: Just like getting a flu shot, there can be side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Fortunately, most of the people in the studies only experienced short-term side effects. These resolved quickly, usually in two days or less.
- There are only mild side effects: For most people in the study, the side effects were mild. Fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headache, and chills were common. More severe side-effects, such as fever, diarrhea, or vomiting did occur, but were much less common.
- The vaccine will not cause COVID-19: People sometimes assume that the vaccine actually contains a small amount of the virus. This simply isn't true: the vaccines don't actually contain the COVID-19 virus, so getting the shot will not infect you.
- The vaccine is effective: While not perfect, the vaccine will protect 9 out of 10 people. That's a remarkably high success rate!
- The vaccine is probably more effective than immunity caused by getting the virus: The research is still unclear about how long someone is protected after having the virus. There certainly is a period where people are immune from getting it again. Unfortunately, researchers are still learning about the virus, and there is much they do not know. They do know that the vaccine is likely more successful at keeping you safe long-term.
- It will make you feel better: It's unscientific, but a huge number of people spent the last year worrying. About themselves. About loved ones. About the world. They have been wishing, hoping, and praying that a vaccine would come. Now that it has, it will take a great deal of stress away from many people. And we know stress is not good. It will be decades before we learn the effects of all this stress. There is no doubt though that what researchers find will not be good. If it's going to help take that stress away, you may want to get the vaccine.
- There are no long-term studies: Very simply, the virus hasn't been around very long. While the vaccine was tested on a large number of people, we simply haven't had enough time to see what happens to the body years (or decades) after receiving the vaccine.
- The goal of the vaccine is not to prevent COVID-19 infection: The vaccine has been designed to modify the symptoms of people who are vaccinated. While a COVID-19 infection causes some people to be hospitalized, others have only minor symptoms. In many cases, the person is asymptomatic, and does not even realize they are infected. The vaccine seeks to lessen the symptoms and keep you out of the hospital. While not a bad thing, many people do expect that the vaccine will make them completely safe.
- A vaccine that isn't successful will only spread more of the virus: Because there are no long-term studies, and because the vaccine doesn't keep you from getting infected, many people will assume that they are completely safe. As a result, they will stop taking basic safety precautions: wearing masks, washing their hands, social distancing, etc... As a result, if they become infected, they will only spread the virus further. Some researchers argue that the vaccine (as it stands) will only make things worse.
Both the Pros and the Cons become a lot to unwrap. There is contradictory information. Sure, there was a large group of people tested during the studies. But those studies happened fairly quickly. We don't even know what will happen to those people a year later. The vaccine does seem to help many people, and even if it does not provide 100% protection from the virus, it does lessen the symptoms. You would rather be home in bed with a cough than in a hospital and on a ventilator.
Doctors and researchers are still learning themselves, and what you hear one doctor say may be the complete opposite of what another says. The decision is ultimately yours, and yours alone. You should do research before you make that decision. Watch interviews with doctors and researchers. Read articles, not just from your preferred news source, but maybe even the one you hate. Read articles from international news sources.
Do not let politics play a role in your health. Be wise. Be diligent. Spend the time to do the research and learn what's best for you. Talk to your doctor. While he may be as confused as you are, he does know your medical history. He can discuss the situation with you and make recommendations based on your specific medical history.