Director's Corner

COVID Vaccinations: Do What Is Right For You

COVID Vaccinations: Do What Is Right For You

COVID Vaccinations: Do What Is Right For You

As the country continues to deal with COVID-19 and its variants, I want to share my perspective.

First, I want to be clear that if you fall into a high-risk category due to existing medical issues such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, chronic lung disease, sickle cell disease or are in some way immunocompromised, I encourage you to get the COVID-19 Vaccines.

I have chosen not to get the Covid vaccine. There are reasons that I would like to share with you.

I am 73 years old and in decent physical shape, and I actually got COVID in the early stages of the pandemic, before there was a vaccine. Fortunately, I had a mild case and not some of the awful symptoms and setbacks that people have experienced. In fact, I hardly had any symptoms at all. I quarantined for 10 days and then went back to my regular duties as a physician and as the Program Director of AFCNS.

And, now, despite there being more than one vaccine available, I have not gotten vaccinated. Let me explain why I have made this personal choice.

When a person is directly exposed to a germ, one’s body reacts by producing antibodies to fight off that germ. Antibodies are like an activated army of blood cells against that particular germ. Antibodies may be acquired naturally from direct exposure or by a vaccine.

Natural immunity is the antibody protection your body creates against a germ once you’ve been infected with that germ. Natural immunity varies according to the person and the germ. For example, people who have had the measles are not likely to get it again. This is not the case for every disease, and the strength of the natural immunity may vary.

A vaccine is any preparation that confers immunity against a specific germ, usually by injection of a weaker form of the germ to stimulate antibody production. In other words, a vaccine is a look-alike of the real germ to fool your immune system into creating antibodies against the real germ.

If you have had the real germ and recovered, a normal immune system will react predictably and protect you from that germ in the future…not completely, but there will be some protection.

The history of vaccines started in rural England in about 1800 when the deadly disease Smallpox was prevalent. A doctor named Edward Jenner noticed that milkmaids, who milked cows every day, rarely got Smallpox. They did, however, get Cowpox, a significantly milder form of Smallpox. Doctor Jenner thought that maybe something in the Cowpox brought protection against Smallpox

In a crude experiment, he injected a healthy boy with fluid from a milkmaid with active Cowpox. The boy got Cowpox and recovered. Later, Dr. Jenner injected the boy with Smallpox, and the boy did not get Smallpox. Through a series of experiments, Jenner discovered that by injecting subjects with the fluids from the milkmaids, they developed only Cowpox and then were immune to Smallpox. In fact, the word vaccine comes from the Latin word vacca, which means cow and is a nod to the experiments that Dr. Jenner performed.

Through his experiments, Jenner concluded that the milkmaids had developed a natural immunity to Smallpox because of their exposure to the Cowpox. Jenner’s work still stands as a cornerstone of the vaccination process.

So, two things led to me not wanting to get the vaccine:

  1. I knew I had been exposed to COVID and my system already was strong enough to easily fight it off without any medicine. In other words, I have developed my own natural immunity.
    and …
  2. My immune system was now even stronger because it had the opportunity to manufacture COVID antibodies.

This was a personal choice based on knowing my body and the science of immunology.

To be clear, it’s not that I don’t believe in vaccines. The COVID vaccine makes sense for those who are at risk of complications. And, I have gotten other vaccines, such as the one to prevent Shingles.

Some of us believe that it is possible to go overboard in the vaccination of healthy people. You decide what is right for you.

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