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  • Dr. Sue Overkamp DO

Should I get the COVID vaccine?

Q: Hope you are well. I am doing fine and so is my husband. I don't get out unless it is for groceries early in the morning or to my part-time job which is closed to the public (only curbside). My husband hasn't been out at all. Hoping that we may be turning the bend on Covid and that is why I'm writing. I have the opportunity to get the Moderna Covid vaccine from work in the near future. I have to let them know by this coming Wednesday if I am interested in getting the vaccine. So I am wondering what your opinion is. Hope to hear from you. Take care and stay safe. Can't wait to come back and see you for some acupuncture (healing and relaxation time) once things get back to "normal."


A: I appreciate your willingness to get good information on mRNA vaccine against COVID19, since

there is a lot of information out there, and some of it is even accurate!

As far as we know right now, mRNA vaccines are giving about 95% coverage against

SARSCoV2. Our best guess is that immunity is full at about 6 weeks after the first dose of

vaccine.


What we hope and expect is that it will confer immunity in almost everyone and especially in

folks who are in higher-risk groups, because they are more vulnerable to mortality. We don't yet

know how long that immunity will last, but of course researchers and the medical community are busy collecting and crunching these data.


Here's the situation:

1. As its name says, this is a novel virus. Novel means, among other things, that it takes us

humans time to learn all we need to learn to beat it. Like influenza, it doesn't look likely that we

will ever beat it entirely. Right now the goal is to do enough things right that the virus becomes

endemic rather than pandemic. This means that, even though it mutates, we can immunize

against the most likely variants yearly like we do with influenza. Last influenza season

(2019-2020), 22,000 people died from influenza in the US out of 38 million US cases.


2. SARSCoV2 is virulent because first, it is highly communicable through respiratory droplets

and aerosol, and because second, it is transmissible from asymptomatic individuals. With what

we know right now, it looks like the mortality rate worldwide from COVID19 is 3%, with 5% of

all cases being critical. Contrast this with current influenza mortality which is about 0.1-0.2%.

(In the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, the mortality rate was greater than 2.5%.) With effective

COVID vaccine in enough arms, it is our hope that the mortality rate will go way down, just as

the influenza rate has.


3. These two features mean that a population vigilant and compliant with prevention protocols

will, in a fairly short period of time, experience a precipitous drop in mortality and in number of

cases generally. We have a dear American friend who has been living in Guangzhou (Canton) for

the last 15 years. When we spoke with him 3 weeks ago, I asked him if there were many COVID

cases. He said he was not aware of any. He's a teacher in an English-language school for the

children of Chinese diplomats, so if there were cases, he would know, in spite of the rep of the


PRC for not sharing information appropriately. They underwent strict isolation and mask-

wearing protocols early in 2020, and as far as I know, it is accurate to say that the COVID pandemic is over in the PRC. And in New Zealand, and in many other places. A great place for

daily updated information about how the world is doing is https://www.worldometers.info/

coronavirus/


So now for my answer to your question: as long as you have no contraindications to receiving the vaccine (https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/moderna/moderna-

faqs.html#:~:text=CDC%20considers%20history%20of%20the,or%20any%20of%20its%20components), your chances of receiving a benefit from being vaccinated are high. Now this may

sound like a hedge. Please remember that what we know about vaccines is population-based and not individual-based. Of course, populations are made up of individuals, and we WANT to help individuals! So as individuals, we weight risk v. benefit, as in all choices. I am saying that, from what I know, your risk profile is low and your benefit profile is high, so for you, as for most

people, the vaccine is almost certainly a good way to protect you and others from contracting

COVID19.


And my personal answer: I received my first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on January 14,

and I will receive my second dose on February 5. Will it protect me? Likely. My risk/benefit

analysis: along with my judicious mask-wearing, hand sanitizing, and physical distancing or

downright quarantine if needed, the vaccine is a gift to me and through me to others as well.

During a pandemic (and at all other times), I can't think of a better thing for people to do than to

care well for themselves and others.


Thank you for asking. If you have other questions, please let me know. I, too, look forward to

seeing you!

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