Understanding of COVID-19 Vaccine is Vital to Regaining our Community’s Health and Way of Life

Much has been written and reported regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, from its production, supply and distribution to its efficacy and safety.  I would like to speak to the latter topics – and how critical it is that, as responsible U.S. citizens, we vaccinate ourselves and our loved ones to stop this deadly virus that has already claimed more U.S. lives than all of those lost over our four-year involvement in World War II.

Much research has been conducted, coast-to-coast and around the world, confirming the vaccine’s overwhelming safety to the vast majority of people. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported recently that less than 0.03% of the more than 4 million people who received the Moderna vaccine experienced any side effects.

Similarly, a recent Brazilian study showed results of 70% to 80% efficacy for the prevention of mild COVID cases, and a high tendency to prevent more serious hospitalizations and death. The vaccine was also found to be safe in all of the study’s subjects, causing only mild, short-term side effects like headaches and muscle aches. Most importantly, severe cases were entirely prevented among the vaccinated group, including the elderly, and no one who received the vaccine was hospitalized.

One of the most frequently discussed population segments include women who are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant — a group not included in the FDA’s initial research. However, much more information is now available for this group. For instance, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently advises women who are pregnant and at a higher risk for COVID morbidity to proceed with the vaccine. Also, as discussed in this presentation from the Yale University School of Medicine, there are no data supporting any link to the vaccine and fertility issues, which has led physicians to encourage anyone who is contemplating pregnancy to receive the vaccine.

Another population of concern includes communities of color. The American College of Surgeons issued a recent report that details how the pandemic has been disproportionately devastating to these groups, including minority population subsets such as African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and Native Americans. This is due to a host of socioeconomic factors that combine to produce numerous health and financial barriers. Moreover, these same social determinants of health also lead to a lack of resources available in these communities, which are often considered “pharmacy deserts.” As a result, the ACS is recommending that surgeons play an active role in promoting the vaccine to these diverse populations, to protect all patients and help stop the virus’ spread.

Locally, you also have many great resources to learn about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, including venues where you can ask questions about your and your family’s specific cases and concerns. On Tues., Jan. 27, at 6 p.m. you can join a free online webinar presented by the Buffalo Museum of Science and the University at Buffalo’s Genome, Environment, and Microbiome Community of Excellence. Attendees can ask about the virus itself, how it was developed, and how to discuss it with loved ones — especially your children. You can also join it via Facebook, here.

Then on Wed., Jan. 28, at noon you can hear from one of our @OCHBuffalo experts. Dr. Sarah Berga, our director of OB/GYN and Women’s Health Program Development, will discuss the vaccine in relation to pregnancy, lactation and fertility. She’ll also address the fears and concerns of side effects for moms and babies. It’s part of our free HealthyU community education series, provided monthly by Kaleida Health, and you can sign-up here.

More than anything, we need to be honest with each other about this virus and the deadly outcomes it has caused our country and world. Indeed, Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed in a #CNN interview this week that the lack of honesty from government officials very likely caused American lives to be lost needlessly. Please, resist the conspiracy theories, hyperbole and negativity you hear on social media from people outside of healthcare. My job, and that of my colleagues — for which we have taken an oath — is to help keep people in good health. Get vaccinated, and help us all get back to normal.