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Why Is The COVID-19 Vaccine So Important?

[bf_image id="s4c4fwgtt67jqmk72zsgwh"] Pandemics have occurred throughout history, and it’s important to recognize that there can be an end or at least a means of controlling the spread of a virus like COVID-19. COVID-19 has been difficult for all of us, whether we would like to admit it or not. Many have lost their lives to this virus, others now have lifelong health problems because of it, and yet we are still seeing a pushback of individuals refusing to wear masks, and get vaccinated. These are the same individuals last year that were keyboard warriors stating that we need herd immunity to end the virus, and yet now that they have the opportunity to help end this pandemic and they refuse. I understand people's hesitancy to take a new vaccine, I had family members that felt the same. But, after losing several loved ones to this virus, as well as the devastation we have witnessed throughout the world, we are choosing to get vaccinated. I lost my grand-uncle to this virus and I’ve had countless friends and family members sent to the ER and ICU to be resuscitated, not knowing if they would make it. 

The individuals that touted their perfect health as a reason for not needing to mask up or get a vaccine are the reason I lost my loved ones, or they now have long-term health problems. My best friend was in perfect health until she got COVID-19 before Christmas. She went from being the gymnast, hiking, paddle-boarding enthusiast, to being sent to the ER, and spending the last three months in and out of a heart failure clinic; where they have done EKGs, MRIS, pulmonary tests, and more, to try and diagnose the damage that was done because of COVID-19. I’m not writing this to scare you, I’m writing this to make you understand that even if you are perfectly healthy at this moment, COVID-19 can strip you of that. We still have no idea what the long-term effects of this virus will be. People have developed blood clots, decreased lung function, heart failure, reproductive issues, mental health disorders, and more. I’ve had friends and family ask if I’m nervous about the potential side effects of the vaccine, and my answer to them is this, I know there are risks associated with the vaccine as with anything in life, but the damage that I have witnessed in my loved ones and those throughout the world because of this virus has made me realize the utmost importance of vaccines. I will "take my chances" with a vaccine that has been tested rigorously to get it to this stage when compared to the virus that can cause seemingly no harm or completely destroy one’s livelihood. Doctors and researchers across the world have yet to fully understand the damage done to one's body after contracting COVID-19. Additionally, I feel that it is my duty to get the vaccine for those at a higher risk; for my grandparents, my neighbors, my friends, and my greater community as a whole. 

I have dug for as much information as possible on vaccines, pandemics, responses to pandemics as I work as a contact tracer but even before I began contact tracing for the department of health last summer, I spent nights trying to find the best ways to help my loved ones avoid getting COVID-19, and what to do if they did get it. As presented in the New York Times, deaths in nursing homes have significantly decreased since we began administering vaccines. We have proof that these are working to combat the spread of COVID-19. Just in the last three months, new cases among nursing home residents fell by eighty percent, and fatalities dropped by more than sixty-five percent (Conlen, Mervosh, Ivory, 2021). 

Individuals have come up with absurd claims that there are microchips in the vaccines to monitor our every move as if we don’t willingly use social media and our cellphones daily. They’ve stated that they were not tested on animals first; if you did any research about the COVID-19 vaccine last year you would see that was the first phase of the trial, but due to needing to create the vaccine as quickly as possible due to the contagion rates of COVID-19, humans were also part of the phase 1 trial. No phases were skipped and emergency approval does not mean it did not go through rigorous testing and analysis to get to that point. Anti-Vax propagandists shared that they believed it would cause sterilization or infertility, this has been widely debunked since. Information from the CDC has shown that pregnant women are more likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19 than those who are not pregnant, which has led many pregnant women to opt to get the vaccine now. Clinical studies have now begun for pregnant women and children as young as six months old. The first studies of the vaccine were focused on gathering a general pool of adult men and women of different ages, races, and health. Some of those who have had COVID-19 have also claimed that they are immune forever, while studies have shown that immunity wanes significantly ninety days after infection. Additionally, the immunity one receives from having had COVID-19 can vary from person to person as well as the fact that your initial immune response does not protect you from different strains of the virus, so it is possible for you to be reinfected with a mutation of the virus. It is risky for those who have had COVID-19 recently to have this mentality. 

Others that stated herd immunity by contracting COVID-19 was the best way to end this pandemic, have failed to recognize the downfall of healthcare systems by using that means. When we use “natural” contagion, it gets out of hand as we witnessed as cases surged to all-time highs last fall, our health care workers were burnt out, patients had to be turned away because there were not enough beds, and individuals died because of the failures on our part as a society. No health care system is equipped to deal with an ongoing crisis like this, especially when we exacerbate the situation by ignoring guidelines for masking and social distancing. Another part of this that we must recognize, is that we do not know how COVID-19 will manifest in one’s body. Yes, some individuals feel like they had the flu, others have long-term health problems, and many died. It’s even been found that those who had minor symptoms can end up having long-term health problems down the road because of COVID-19. This is why it is critical that we achieve herd immunity, through vaccination. As variants are popping up across the world, we must recognize that mutations of the virus cannot occur if there is not a host; therefore, it is extremely important that as many of us get vaccinated as possible. 

Throughout history we have witnessed the devastating effects of pandemics and COVID-19 is no different but vaccinations as well as the measures we have been taking can help us combat the spread of COVID-19 and prevent future outbreaks. Polio once wreaked havoc across the world, but polio was eliminated in the United States because of the Polio vaccine, and we have been able to stay polio-free because of the continued use of this vaccine. Diptheria is not common to us as we now receive the DTaP vaccine that provides us with protection from diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Diphtheria can be a fatal disease causing heart failure, paralysis, and even death. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough can prove to be fatal for babies and we have witnessed outbreaks due to low vaccination rates in some schools. Chickenpox used to be a common disease that proved to be serious and life-threatening, but now our incidence rates of chickenpox have decreased significantly. We also receive the MMR vaccine as children to protect us against mumps, measles, and rubella. My point is that we have found ways to eradicate or significantly reduce the mortality and severity rates of illness from these viruses, and we can do the same by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

My grandparents told me about getting the polio shot when they were young, my grand aunt showed me her smallpox scar, and one day I will tell my grandchildren about the COVID-19 vaccine I received when I was twenty. Vaccines are so important to end this pandemic, but I also want to stress the importance of why masking and social distancing are still crucial even after vaccination until we get the virus under control. First, some may choose to not get the vaccine, leaving them susceptible to not only contract the virus but to spread the virus and potentially create mutations of the virus, as we have witnessed. The vaccines we have currently cover most of the new strains, but these mutations are occurring more and more, especially as individuals begin traveling. Additionally, as with any vaccine, there is still a chance to get the virus, but a vaccine significantly reduces the chances of getting it, and most importantly, the severity of infection. We get the flu shot, knowing there is a chance we still may get the flu shot, but rather than being sick for 7-14 days, we may feel sick for 3-5 days. 

Side effects of the vaccine are a good thing yet we commonly mistake them for making us sick. Many believe the flu shot gives them the flu when in reality it is triggering an immune response so that when your body is exposed to the actual virus, it knows how to fight it. It is the same with the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine will not make you contract COVID-19 and test positive for the virus. It is entirely possible that you were exposed to the virus in between receiving your doses of the vaccine and contracted it, or after you received both doses, you were exposed to a variant case. If you are exposed to COVID-19 and develop symptoms, you should isolate and get tested, as we want to reduce the spread of the virus. 

We have to recognize that getting back to normal means that we take precautions now and do our best as a community to protect one another. If we ever want to lead normal lives again we must know that things won’t instantly get better. Things take time but they will get better and one day we’ll be able to lead normal lives again. For now, we need to get vaccinated, keep masking up when in public, and avoid unnecessary travel. Eventually, testing before events may be required, or vaccines may be required for travel; we have to take these precautions because we want things to be *normal* again. We can’t jump the gun, or we will lose all of the progress we have made and subsequently lose so many lives. So please, be kind to one another and recognize that this is your opportunity to not only protect yourself, but your loved ones, and your community. I’m getting my vaccine and I hope you will too.

 

References:

CDC. (2018, July). Understanding How Vaccines Work. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-underst...

CDC. (2020, May 08). 14 diseases you almost forgot About (thanks To vaccines). Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/forgot-14-diseases.html

CDC. (2021, February 13). Interim guidance on duration of isolation and precautions for adults with covid-19. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/duration-isolation.html#:~....

Conlen, M., Mervosh, S., & Ivory, D. (2021, February 25). Nursing homes, Once Hotspots, far outpace U.S. In covid declines. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/02/25/us/nursing-home-covid-vac...

Dupuy, B. (2020, November 25). Pfizer and MODERNA did not skip animal trials. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://apnews.com/article/fact-checking-afs:Content:9792931264

Feinberg, E. (2021, March 25). Shattering the Infertility myth about Covid-19 vaccines. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.statnews.com/2021/03/25/infertility-myth-covid-19-vaccines-p...

Mayo Clinic. (2020, December 8). COVID-19 vaccine myths debunked. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/co...

Moore, S. (2021, March 11). The importance of global covid-19 vaccination. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.news-medical.net/health/The-Importance-of-Global-COVID-19-Va...

Rettner, R. (2021, February 17). Severe COVID-19 may damage the eyes, small study hints. Retrieved March 31, 2021, from https://www.livescience.com/severe-covid-19-eye-damage.html

Natasha is currently working towards her Bachelor's of Science in Psychology. She plans to return to the U after graduating to obtain a second bachelor's degree in Community Health. She adores animals, music, nature, art, and spending time with her friends and family.
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