Jeffrey Stalnaker, MD
We are experiencing a surge in COVID-19. You have likely heard reports of the dramatic increase in cases around the world. It threatens the Olympic games due to start this week, and we are seeing similar significant increases in cases right here in Brevard County, FL.
But there is something you can do. Vaccines are the best weapons we have to stop the virus from spreading. Unfortunately, misinformation about the vaccines is spreading just as fast as the virus, generating fear and causing vaccine hesitancy.
Let’s clear up some of the confusion now.
Previous infection with COVID-19 does not make you immune to new strains.
It is true that a previous infection does provide some antibodies and some protection—particularly if you are exposed to the same strain that infected you before. However, the immunity does not last as long and is not as strong as from the vaccine, particularly against the new Delta variant. We have a lot of experience with other vaccines—for example human papillomavirus (HPV) and tetanus—that provide stronger protection than a natural infection.
Just because it “wasn’t that bad” for someone else, doesn’t mean you should take the chance.
The new Delta variant is affecting people differently this year—with people in their late teens and early 20s being hospitalized and some requiring ventilators. It was rare to see young, otherwise healthy people hospitalized with COVID last year, but it is becoming much more common now.
A “wait and see” approach may mean you’re too late.
With this virus, time is of the essence because it is spreading so quickly. The time to get vaccinated is now—because it will still be a few weeks before you have maximum protection. With the Pfizer vaccine, after the first dose, it requires three weeks before the second dose, and then you are not fully protected until two weeks after that—it takes about five weeks total. For the Moderna vaccines, you get your second dose four weeks after the first dose, so it takes about six weeks to reach full protection.
Getting the vaccine avoids becoming sick.
There is no live virus in the vaccine, so there is no way you can get COVID-19 from the vaccine. It’s possible you may feel some mild side effects—for example, a sore arm, or maybe some body aches or a fever—but that will be temporary, and nothing compared to the effects that you could suffer from the virus. With over 100 million doses given, the coronavirus vaccine is proving to be one of the safest vaccines in history.
Being young and healthy isn’t protection.
While we saw seniors with COVID struggle the most last year, this new Delta variant is proving to be especially difficult for younger adults, those in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Even if you don’t die from COVID, around 30% of those infected still have symptoms up to nine months after infection.
True, you could still be infected, but you won’t die.
Yes, there is a small chance you could still get COVID-19 after you’ve been vaccinated, but if that happens, you will likely have a mild case and recover much more quickly. Across the country, approximately 99.5% of those currently dying in hospitals are unvaccinated.
There is no evidence to suggest that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems.
In fact, if you are pregnant and get COVID-19, you are at increased risk of severe disease, so there is an extra incentive to get vaccinated if you are thinking about becoming pregnant or are already pregnant.
Dependance on other people to do the right thing isn’t enough.
It would be wonderful if we could rely on everyone to conduct themselves in a responsible manner, but we know that does not always happen. If it did, we wouldn’t need speed limits, traffic lights, restaurant inspections, or any of the other requirements we follow to protect public health. Plus, with COVID-19, many people may be infected and not feel any symptoms, so they could be spreading the virus to others without even knowing it. That’s why wearing a mask is so helpful, particularly if you are unvaccinated.
Finally ….. Find the truth.
You may feel as if you don’t know who to trust. The key is to look at reputable, proven sources of information. Stick with official health authorities or leading research centers and universities who specialize in vaccines and infectious diseases. Your personal healthcare provider can also answer your questions about vaccines or provide advice about your own health.
We have long cautioned that COVID-19 would not go away easily, and it will take everyone to do his or her part to ensure we defeat this pandemic once and for all.
Jeffrey Stalnaker, MD, is Chief Clinical Officer for Rockledge, FL-based Health First