Sandra asks about her vaccine-hesitant husband.
[Keywords: pandemic, covid, immunization, safety, risks, benefits, virus, polio, doctor, medical, advice, physician]
Hi Dr Ryen. My husband and I have been arguing about the Covid vaccine. I got it months ago, but Alan is… well… hesitant. He’s not sure about the long-term effects. “Who knows if it’ll cause cancer or heart attacks or something else down the road? And besides, the Plunketts both got Covid, and they’re both fine now.” He just brushes the whole thing off. In fact, he wants to get his doctor to give him an exemption letter. I’m a little worried about him - he’s not as young as he used to be and his lungs weren’t the best to begin with (he smoked for years until we had kids). Can you help?
- Sandra, Buffalo, NY
Sandra, your concern is completely valid. Covid infections are sometimes minor, with very few symptoms. Sometimes they’re completely miserable, making patients quite sick for a week or more. But occasionally they’re downright scary. If a Covid-infected patient ends up on a ventilator, the chances of survival decrease dramatically. And anyone with underlying heart or lung conditions (like your husband) are at increased risk for serious complications.
Covid vaccines arrived on the market rather quickly, didn’t they. And as soon as they arrived, the government seemed to push them like crazy. However, Covid vaccine development followed the same stringent regulations and testing that every other vaccine and medication does. As far as I can tell, they didn’t cut any corners. So far, there isn’t any evidence that these vaccines have any long-term adverse effects. The only common side effects are a sore arm (where you got poked) and a day or two of aches and chills (Tylenol or Advil can make this virtually disappear). The evidence currently shows that Covid vaccines are entirely safe. There are no issues with fertility or pregnancy. Even people on chemotherapy can get them. The only major drawback is that they may not be as effective as we’d like them to be, especially with the advent of new Covid strains.
There has been some talk about medical exemption from Covid vaccines, especially in the wake of “vaccine passports” that seem to be becoming more prevalent around the world. However, the medical reasons to not get vaccinated are few and far between - they basically amount to severe reactions to the vaccine itself. A documented episode of pericarditis (inflammation around the heart) in response to an mRNA vaccine or severe allergy to the first dose of Covid vaccine are the only two valid reasons I know of. These are extremely rare. Everyone else has no medical reason not to get vaccinated.
No government can force a person to become vaccinated - uncoerced consent is needed for any medical intervention. However, not everything that people do (or don’t do) is acceptable to normal society. For example, we aren’t allowed to drive a tank through a schoolyard or poop in the middle of a beach - these irresponsible actions put others at risk. To have a functional and safe society, we must all make efforts to ensure the health and wellbeing of our fellow citizens. It’s virtually impossible to apply this to a mass vaccination policy, but it’s not unreasonable for governments to make life “normal” for vaccinated people while imposing restrictions on the unvaccinated. This isn’t pleasant for people like your husband, but his lack of vaccination can potentially endanger society in general.
I have never met anyone who regretted getting a vaccine (Covid or otherwise), but there are many who regretted not vaccinating themselves or their loved ones. At the very least, vaccination may be the means to a normal life.
Overall, Covid vaccines are safe, despite all the toxic ranting we read on social media, they work reasonably well, and there’s no good reason not to get it done.
Good luck, Sandra. Alan’s decision is emotional more than it is logical. Try to give him some space and hopefully he’ll come around when you try to plan your next tropical vacation.
© D. B. Ryen Incorporated, September 2021.
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