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Letter: It’s not too late to get the COVID shot

The delta variant has brought some changes to the landscape of fighting Covid-19. It’s been said before. The war has changed. 

Delta is definitely more contagious, and probably more severe, than the pre-delta variants. 

One change that we are seeing is an increase of breakthrough cases, in other words, fully vaccinated people are more frequently getting not only infected, but also having symptomatic disease. 

From Israeli data, it’s also looking like the earlier a person was vaccinated, the more likely that person will be to develop symptomatic disease. For instance, if a person was vaccinated in December / January, they are more likely to become symptomatic than someone vaccinated later. 

While inconvenient, becoming symptomatic with Covid for vaccinated people should be less worrisome than it was a year ago. With full vaccination, there’s about a 20 fold reduction of risk of hospitalization and an even greater reduction of the risk of death. 

For the unvaccinated, there is no similar good news. It’s not just death. For every death with Covid, there’s another 30 people with disability lasting longer than a month, and there’s 10 people who will have some disability for more than a year. Sometimes it’s loss of smell, but other times it’s needing a new liver or having a stroke. I would not be surprised to see data later showing a reduction of long-term complications conferred by vaccination, but this is not yet established. 

What is established is impressive. For the vaccinated, protection against death is greatest. For the vaccinated, protection against hospitalization is less, followed by protection from symptoms. Least protective is protection from infection, so unsurprisingly, it is possible for asymptomatic vaccinated, or unvaccinated people, to have the virus and to be shedding it.

I think it’s important to know that the numbers are important and oversimplification is something to avoid.  Yes, it seems if something happens to you, it’s 100%. Still, going forward, if one path has a higher probability of safety, it should be the preferred path. 

Unequivocally, vaccination is prospectively safer than the virus.

I sometimes see innately unreasonable arguments against these vaccines, like ‘how do we know in 2 years that something won’t happen?’ Well, can’t the same thing be said of the virus?   When it comes down to that particular canard, I think about the connection of chickenpox and shingles. Why the vaccine, a shorter strand of non-replicating RNA that degrades in a couple of days, should cause more trouble than the virus, a longer strand or self-perpetuating RNA that survives as long as it can, is somewhat beyond me. 

I see other accusations against the vaccines such as they are experimental. They are not. What they are is revolutionary. Traditional vaccines made from inactivated Covid-19 components are proving to be less effective in combating the disease around the world. The US-approved vaccines have gone through Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 trials; they’ve been monitored for side effects both before and after Emergency Use Authorization. Over 160 million Americans are fully immunized and while I haven’t specifically done the math, it’s a reasonable assumption that millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths have already been prevented. For those who are using any old argument to resist getting the vaccine, Pfizer is on the verge of FDA formal approval, but if that’s really what’s holding anybody back — I’m surprised. 

The vaccines work. They aren’t perfect.  Nothing in this world is. They do represent the lowest risk path to immunity for the vast majority of people. 

Whether people get vaccinated or not, we are all headed for immunity. It is the way of pandemics. The herd gets somewhat immune because the susceptible ones die. There may be 5% of people who are ‘naturally immune’ to this. We can’t tell who these people are, but there are stories of people who’ve been repeatedly exposed and never got sick. These are fortunate people. 

For everybody else, we’re headed to immunity through one of two paths. Either we create immunity through vaccination or we survive the disease. 

By the time the pandemic phase is over, it’s reasonable to expect 85% of the population to be immune, one way or another. Over the next few years, during a likely ‘endemic phase’, it looks almost inevitable that everyone will be exposed to this virus at some point.

So, the vast majority of people have a choice of low risk ‘door number one’ (voluntary vaccination), or, if they don’t choose, they get forced through high risk ‘door number two’ (involuntary disease).  Each door has its inherent risks. If you’re smart, you look both ways before you cross the street, so comparing viral risks to vaccine risks is the only reasonable comparison.  It’s not reasonable to consider vaccine risks in a vacuum. 

Your immune system will be tested. Do you want to teach it first? 

I wish I had the space to respond to all the different errors, distortions, and other lies that are used against vaccines, but there just isn’t the room here. It’s bad enough that they are screwing up their own chances, but to drag others down with them is particularly galling. 

In seeing people with health problems, I sometimes lump things in two great categories. There are ‘Things that people do to themselves’ like smokers who get lung cancer and ‘things that just seem to happen to people’ like genetic illnesses. 

We’ve had over 6 months to get vaccinated. With what we’re seeing with delta, it’s looking like around 90% of the hospitalizations and a much larger percentage of the deaths will be coming from the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated group. 

For some of the people reading this article, it’s already too late to get vaccinated. For others, it’s not. It’s not too late … until it is. 

Dr. Ken Gordon

LaGrange