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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Do or die: Top ten reasons why you should take a COVID-19 vaccine

By Katim S Touray

I am not a medical or healthcare professional, but with a Ph.D. in soil science, I think I know a thing or two about science. Since at least the 17th century, the development of science (including bio-medical sciences) has been based on the scientific method, which involves using rigorous skepticism about what has been carefully observed, the formulation of hypotheses or conjectures based on the observations, and conducting experiments to refute or confirm those hypotheses. The scientific method forms the basis of the COVID-19 vaccine trials which have so far yielded the 13 vaccines authorized for emergency use, or approved for full use.

Unfortunately, because of the politicization of science, and fake news being spread by antivaxxers and conspiracy theorists, vaccine hesitancy remains a global challenge, even among medical workers. Since the pandemic is everybody’s problem, and I’ve already had my first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine, I thought I should offer, in no order of preference, my top ten reasons why you should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

One: COVID-19 vaccines have been tried and tested using the scientific method. As of April 11, 2021, there were 5,316 clinical trials on COVID-19 in 136 countries. These clinical trials are conducted in four phases, and based on strict standards. Under special circumstances, like the COVID-19 pandemic, some trial phases can be conducted simultaneously to speed up the process of vaccine development.

Two: COVID-19 vaccines have high efficacy, i.e. the percentage reduction in the risk of getting COVID-19 symptoms, or being hospitalized or killed from severe cases of COVID-19 infections. Thus, the efficacies of vaccines against the risk of getting infected and having symptoms of the infection range from 95% for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to 89.3% for the Novovax vaccine, and 76% for the AstraZeneca vaccine. As encouraging as these numbers are, they understate the fact that almost all COVID-19 vaccines in use have 100% efficacy in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

Three: The COVID-19 vaccines are authorized by international and national authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States (US) of America, to name a few. These organizations have not only authorized the use of the COVID-19 vaccines, they continue to monitor their use, and advise the public accordingly as more is learned about them.

Four: The risks of taking the COVID-19 vaccine are extremely low. Despite the scare mongering of the antivaxxers, the vaccines are very safe. Between December 2020 and April 2021, 167 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the US, and 2,794 deaths (0.00167% or 1 in about 60,000) were reported among recipients of the vaccines. Similarly, 79 out of 20.2 million people (0.0004% or 1 in about 255 thousand) vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK had blood clots. This risk of blot clots among UK AstraZeneca vaccine recipients is far less than the risk of blood clots among women on the contraceptive pill (1 in 1,000 women each year).

Five: COVID-19 is terrible. Although a third of COVID-19 virus patients do not show any symptoms, 81% develop mild to moderate symptoms, 14% develop severe symptoms, and 5% develop critical symptoms such as respiratory, and multi-organ failure. Critically ill COVID-19 patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are subjected to invasive procedures ranging from dialysis, and intubation to being fitted with a catheter to extract their urine because they are sedated. Some COVID-19 patients (called “long haulers”) have symptoms that persist for months, and can lead to organ damage, and long-term health (including mental health) problems.

Six: The vaccine is cheaper than getting sick with COVID-19. The cost of COVID-19 vaccines range from $4 for the AstraZeneca vaccine to $10 for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, $20 for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and $25-$37 for the Moderna vaccine. In contrast, a six-day hospital stay for treatment of an un-insured COVID-19 patient in the US costs an average of $73,300. Given the hyper-connected nature of global trade, the COVID-19 pandemic can cause a global economic loss of $4 trillion if developed countries are fully vaccinated by the middle of 2021, and developing countries vaccinate half their populations.

Seven: Count yourself lucky. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is a global disaster, we should be grateful that it took such an incredibly short time to develop COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine development has always been thought to be a long, expensive process that can take up to 10 years and billions of dollars. However, the PfizerBioNTech vaccine, for example, got approval for emergency use one year after the outbreak of the pandemic in China. This lightning-fast pace of vaccine development has made possible by leveraging previously-developed vaccine platforms, worldwide collaboration, and massive funding.

Eight: Antivaxxers can very well take the vaccine without your knowledge. Although many antivaxxers are too far gone in their opposition to the use of COVID-19 vaccines, a significant number of them, especially those in the US, are now taking the vaccines after COVID-19-related deaths in the US exceeded 500 thousand. Some of these people probably take the vaccine in secret, and while they keep discouraging you from taking it.

Nine: Save your family. Taking a COVID-19 vaccine can also save your life and the lives of your family members and loved ones. Besides, you should remember that you can infect your family members if you catch the virus. In the US, for example, up to nine family members will be affected by grief in the event of a COVID-19 death in a family.

Ten: Help save humanity. Given the nature of the pandemic, every single person who gets vaccinated is contributing to strengthening public health, and the global fight against the pandemic. Although 780 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, the WHO warned on April 12, 2021 of the risk of a global surge in COVID-19 cases. It is thus urgently important to everyone eligible to get vaccinated takes the vaccine to help the whole world reach herd immunity, the point where enough people are immune to COVID-19 to stop its spread. Everyone vaccinated against COVID-19 gets us closer to herd immunity, so please do us a favor: spread the news, and take the COVID-19 vaccine!

Please visit the online version of the article at https://kstouray.medium.com/do-or-die-d942d1875ebd for links to sources of information in it.

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