The Vaccine Debate

April 30, 2021

By Dr. Rena Daiza

The past year represented the most challenging times in my career as a physician. Every member of the healthcare community would echo this sentiment. We all, like the rest of our society, long for a return to “normal,” like the times when we could do our jobs and take care of the sick without risking our own health. Our close-knit Chaldean community has also suffered greatly with the losses of so many to this pandemic. We all wish to gather with our friends and family for holidays and weddings again. The light at the end of this dark tunnel is mass vaccination. It is our only safe path. But now the medical community has another battle to fight – vaccine hesitancy within our own community.

In an era of rampant social media and hyper-politicized environment, sometimes it can be difficult to separate myths and lies from facts about the vaccine. Much of the hesitancy is reasonable yet with a bit of education, people can learn that getting immunized is the right thing to do to prevent further devastation and loss. In Michigan, vaccines are now available to anyone over the age of 16 at many different accessible locations.

Some of the common questions and concerns regarding vaccine hesitancy I hear in my clinic and my responses are:

Why should I get vaccinated?

Vaccines protect us from contracting illnesses. They help our body build up the ability to fight off infections. The COVID vaccine is extremely effective in preventing us from being infected with this deadly virus. In rare cases, even if you were to contract the virus after being vaccinated, immunity will keep you from becoming seriously ill and developing grave complications. In short, it could save your life.

I am afraid of the side effects

Millions of people all over the US have now been vaccinated. The most common side effects have been redness or pain at the injection site, muscle aches, fatigue, or low grade fever, and none of these lasting for more than 48 hours. While it is true that we are still learning about the long-term effects of the vaccine, historically most side effects happen in the short term. No one has died from getting the vaccination and only a handful of serious allergic reactions have been registered after administering millions of doses.

I already had COVID so I am immune?

People usually do develop antibodies after being infected, but there is a wide range of antibody responses in each individual from vigorous to absent. Simply put, we don’t know if you are adequately protected and how long that protection would last. The vaccine stimulates a stronger response from our immune system. So far, research shows the vaccine provides immunity for at least 6 months, though how long it lasts may not be known for months or years. A caveat if you were infected with COVID-19 and received monoclonal antibodies, the CDC recommends waiting 3 months before vaccination.

The trials were done too quickly

This is a unique time when the whole world came together to work on a common goal with unprecedented financial support. Logistics like getting people enrolled in the trials and gathering their personal information can take time, but luckily we had a record number of people who volunteered. In trials, there is often a lag period when monitoring patients and waiting for them to contract the disease. Again, as we are in the middle of a pandemic, this process also took place rapidly. With support from governments around the world, pharmaceuticals were able to manufacture and distribute the vaccine at a record speed.

Wearing masks and physically distancing can help reduce your chances of being exposed to the virus and spreading it. The COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool to help stop the pandemic. We should expect that eventually many places will require a vaccine, including travel destinations, schools, and even some work spaces. This may become a necessary health measure.

I was able to hug my 88-year-old grandmother after we both received our vaccines. Protecting her health was reason enough for me to get vaccinated. Most of us know someone who has been infected with COVID-19, so let’s be able to say that about people being vaccinated.

Dr. Rena Daiza is a board certified primary care physician at the Henry Ford Bloomfield Township Medical Center. She serves as a Board of Director of the Chaldean American Association for Health Professionals and as Co-Chair of the Chaldean Women’s Committee – a subgroup of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce.