Submitted by Bart Anderson, PA-C

As a medical provider here in Lincoln County I’ve had a lot of questions, and I have seen a lot of misinformation, about the COVID-19 vaccines.  Is it safe? Why do I have to wear a mask after I get vaccinated?  Was the vaccine rushed? Will it change my DNA? Why shouldn’t I just let myself get infected and then I’ll be immune?  What’s this I hear about Vaccine Passports? Do the vaccines work against the COVID-19 variants? I’ve tried to answer these questions on an individual basis, but hopefully this article will get to more people.  

Are the vaccines safe? Short answer: yes. As safe as science can make them.  The three vaccines that are available in the U.S. are the Pfizer, the Moderna, which both require two shots, and the Johnson & Johnson, a single dose injection.  Between these three they were tried on over 115,000 people before they were approved.  The incidence of adverse reactions was incredibly low.  If you took that number of people and just randomly watched what would happen to them over three months without an injection, you would still have some people who get a cold, or heartburn, or something more serious. The vaccines were tested on ages 16-80+, in many different countries. Some women became pregnant during the trial and there were no adverse effects for them or their children. The vaccines were tested on people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.  The other thing to consider with these vaccines is that we understand the science behind them.   Specialists, physicians, researchers, and the like have been working on these types of vaccines for other diseases before COVID-19 hit us.  We understand how the vaccine should work in our systems, the effects it has on us and how it should fight this disease. 

Misinformation: When you hear someone died from the vaccine, or got sick, you’ve got to remember over 167 million people have now gotten these vaccines.  Of course, out of this number some will suffer some kind of malady because so many people are getting it.  As I write this there have been over 557 million people who received at least one dose of the vaccine around the world. Over a thousand are here in Lincoln County.  There are some side effects from the vaccine, but that is mostly your immune system responding to the vaccination and are mild compared to COVID-19. But your chance of getting a serious side effect from getting the vaccine is vanishingly small.  Compare that to the effects of contracting COVID-19.  Many people who have recovered still have side effects months later.  Out of the 348 people in our county who tested positive for COVID-19, we’ve had four deaths.  That’s more than 1 in 100. If you want to roll the dice by contracting COVID-19 and hope you don’t have any long standing side effects, it’s your choice.  But the odds are really against you. 

More Misinformation:  I have also been bombarded about questions of something someone read, heard on the news (or fake news in some cases) or some official sounding person who posted something on social media, or that you got in an e-mail chain.  If you have specific questions I’m more than happy to answer them, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll research it for you.  But first I would recommend you look at these three things; First, who is the person or group that is publishing this?  Are they who they say they are and what are their credentials? Second, what is the basis of their claim? What is the scientific reasoning and research behind it? If you’ve read stuff like this, you know how to use a computer.  Research it and see what others are saying about it.  Third, do they have some other motivation?  Are they selling a product, a book, or just trying to get clicks on their YouTube channel? A few examples: The vaccine changes your DNA? False. The “expert” falsified his credentials and wanted you to buy his book. Anybody who has had biochemistry in school could tell you that one was false. The vaccine makes women sterile? False. That person exaggerated their job description at Pfizer, lied about their credentials, and wanted you to buy his book. One claim that we should all contract COVID-19 and it will work as well as the vaccine? False. That person was a veterinarian, not a physician, and had a health product he wanted you to buy. Do you own research on these claims, many of them are ridiculous and are expecting that people won’t look any further than the headline. 

“Variants, Shmeriants” – This is how one physician, a well-respected immunologist (and I researched her and her training and her published works) put it about our concern about variants.  As of April 5, the vaccines here in the U.S. are all effective against the variants we’ve seen.  All diseases have variants.  Look at influenza, it varies so much we need a new flu shot each year.  But so far, we’re mostly covered against COVID-19 variants, at least for severe disease. The thing to remember is, the more people that get the current vaccines, the less likely variants are to form.  If you’re vaccinated, your immune system fights the infection, and the less infection, the less variants.  The more people get vaccinated, the less variants we’ll see.

Vaccination Passports – Let’s be clear, I believe that you have the right to refuse this vaccine.  This is the United States of America; freedom of choice is at the core of our national identity.  Along with freedom of choice comes the responsibility to be educated, and be responsible for our actions.  If you don’t get the vaccine, which is your right, then you take the risk of getting COVID  You also put others at risk who haven’t been vaccinated or at least gotten the antibodies. So imagine a restaurant owner who can’t open their restaurant to 100 percent capacity.  If you can show you have had the vaccine, you should be able to sit with people who have also been vaccinated (just like 2019). At a sports stadium you should be able to seat people at 100 percent capacity if they have been vaccinated. It’s up to you if you want to get vaccinated and I am absolutely against “vaccine passports.”  You get a card or printout for your other immunizations, the same thing should work for COVID. People who have been vaccinated should not have to wear a mask around others who have also been vaccinated. 

Where does this end? – The vaccine is the way out of the pandemic.  Want life to go back to normal?  Get vaccinated.  The hospitalization rates and death rates are dropping everywhere that vaccines are being distributed. Vaccines were a monumental effort involving literally hundreds of thousands of people working on them and trillions of dollars.  Vaccines will end this pandemic.

I have lived here in Lincoln County for over 12 years.  I work at the hospital day and night caring for the residents of this county.  I volunteer on the ambulance and fire departments. I teach the EMT classes. I answer questions about medical problems night and day from everyone around me.  I don’t make any extra money from the vaccines. But I’m sick of seeing people get sick, and some die, from COVID. Now we have a safe and effective way to prevent it.  If you’re allergic to other vaccines, talk to your medical provider about it.  If you have concerns, talk to your medical provider about it.  There are very few exceptions, but I recommend everyone else over 18 get vaccinated.  Thank you. 

Bart Anderson, PA-C is a family practice provider at Grover C. Dils Medical Center.

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