Take the Vaccine!

Some people have irrational fears. Take the fear of flying, for instance. Some people would rather drive a thousand miles than get on an airplane because they have a fear of flying.

According to Dr. Arnold Barnett, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the death risk per flight is one in seven million. It doesn’t matter whether you fly once every three years or every day of the year. In fact, based on this incredible safety record, if you did fly every day of your life, probability indicates that it would take you nineteen thousand years before you would succumb to a fatal accident!

Compare these statistics to driving. One hundred and thirty people are killed every day on average in auto accidents. That’s 47,000 killed in auto accidents every year. Dr. Barnett calculates you are nineteen times safer in a plane than in a car. Yet famous football coach John Madden insisted on avoiding planes, preferring his customized bus instead.

How about a train? The risk of dying on a transcontinental train ride is one in a million. That’s pretty good. But you are ten times safer in a plane than on a train.

Which brings me to vaccines. According to the latest polls, about 60% of Americans plan to get a Covid-19 vaccine. This paltry number is actually an improvement since September when only 51% said they would get the vaccine. The Pew Research Center reports only 29% will definitely get the vaccine, and 31% will probably get it. But 21% probably won’t be vaccinated and 18% definitely refuse to get it. These statistics are shown graphically below:

This is particularly difficult to understand at a time when the number of infected Americans is rising rapidly and 71% of Americans say the worst of the pandemic is “still to come.” This is depicted in the next graph:

According to the Pew Research survey, concerns about the vaccines fall into three categories:
Personal concern about getting a case of COVID-19 that would require hospitalization. Those most concerned about getting a serious case of the coronavirus indicate a higher likelihood of getting a vaccine. Those who see little personal need by this metric are closely divided over whether they would get vaccinated.
Trust in the vaccine development process. Expressing confidence that the research and development process will yield a safe and effective vaccine is tied to higher levels of intent to get vaccinated.
Personal practices when it comes to other vaccines. Those who say they get a flu shot yearly are much more likely than those who rarely or never do so to say they would get a vaccine for the coronavirus if one were available.

Some of these fears fall along racial lines. Even though black Americans have a higher rate of infection and death, they are less inclined to get vaccinated than other racial and ethnic groups: 42% would get vaccinated compared to 63% of Hispanic and 61% of white Americans. Asian Americans, however, say 83% plan to get the vaccine.

Fortunately, among older Americans, who are at the highest risk, 75% plan to get vaccinated, while only 55% of those under age 30 plan to do so. Many of those opposed, about half (46%) say they would consider being vaccinated once others receive the vaccine and more information on safety is available. But 21% remain firmly against the vaccine, no matter what happens.

These fears are irrational, just like the fear of flying. For the last ten months not only our country, but the whole world, has been paralyzed by the impact of this novel coronavirus scientists now call SARS CoV-2 or Covid-19. As of this writing, the global impact has been 77,432,103 cases and 1,704,065 deaths. The U.S. statistics are 18,042,120 cases and 319,457 deaths. With these sobering numbers, you would think people would be dancing in the streets at the news that vaccines are now available to rid us of this plague!

The vaccines are the perfect gift to the world this Christmas. Take the vaccine! I did yesterday. As a healthcare provider, I was offered the opportunity to get the vaccine in the early priority group. The shot was nearly painless and the muscle soreness in my arm was less than a flu shot. I’ve had no other side effects. I took the vaccine for three reasons; to protect my patients, to protect my wife (who is in a high-risk category) and to protect myself. I can’t help anyone if I’m ill, or even just an asymptomatic carrier. A 14-day quarantine if I become infected isn’t good for me, my family, or my patients.

If we’re ever going to return to some semblance of normal in this country, and the world, we need people to step up and get the vaccine. Be thankful we live in a world where modern technology, with the help of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, has made a safe, effective vaccine available in the record time of less than a year. The usual time is 4-5 years. There were many naysayers who said that was impossible, but it happened and we should all be grateful. But this rapid development of a new vaccine didn’t cut corners when it comes to safety. This historic scientific breakthrough should be cheered by all, and taken advantage of by all, unless their doctor believes they have a medical condition that makes it unsafe for them. The rest of you need to get vaccinated!

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