An ER Doc’s Primer On The COVID Vaccine

Hello! Once again it has been forever, but I don’t care. I’ve been too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding from, once again, people being stupid.

(I am a tiny bit frustrated with vaccine hesitancy, which I sort of understand, and very frustrated with COVID deniers and other conspiracy theorists, who I think should be first boarded onto a 13-hour Spirit Airlines flight and then forcibly ejected out the emergency exits at 35,000 feet.)

This phase of the pandemic is kind of a fascinating one. On the one hand, here in the United States we’ve hit a point where THREE vaccines that have all wildly exceeded any reasonable expectation of efficacy are now freely and easily available.

We’ve successfully inoculated a huge percentage of our vulnerable oldest population. (Coincidentally, the death rate of COVID has plummeted.) Healthcare workers like me are protected from the patients they serve. If you want the shot and you’re over twelve years old, you can get it easily.

As I’ve said before, the monumental achievement of producing this vaccine barely a year after the emergence of the virus, in the setting of the most incompetent governance you could dream up, is absolutely astounding. Kudos to humankind.

But then… there’s the other hand. A surprisingly large chunk of the population does not want to get vaccinated, for reasons that, when articulated, continue to make absolutely zero sense to me. I read and hear that some people are worried about the side effects or possible long-term sequelae. Some youths think they are invincible or so unlikely to get ill that they don’t think a free vaccine with the inconvenience of a day’s worth of muscle aches is worth it. Some are waiting for… something? More information they will continue to misinterpret? Bars and airlines to require proof of vaccination? The Rapture?

Some folks are truly hopeless, believing that the vaccines are actually microchip vehicles developed and controlled by a secret cabal of globalists, perhaps ruled by Bill Gates. These shadowy omnipresent multinational actors seek, I don’t know, the mass death of all free citizens, or to raise a giant robot army, or something equally Indiana Jonesy. I fail to see the end game.

I genuinely don’t know what to do about this last group. I guess I would simply remind them that the previous administration’s leader pondered an IV infusion of Clorox, among other insane things. Our current leader appears to have the functional capacity of a Furby. The leader of the UK once claimed that his bike (which he nicknamed “Bikey”) was stolen outside of Parliament in an apparent dig at the London mayor, only to reveal later that he had crashed it five years earlier.

My point is that if you really believe that people like this, that are this incredibly… derpy and inept are secretly in control of a worldwide conspiracy to benefit the pharmaceutical companies, you at least should be removed from any kind of job operating heavy machinery.

Anyway. In my current role as Chief Resident Emeritus, with essentially nothing to do except run out the clock until I graduate in six weeks, I figured I can at least provide a public service by providing a Vaccine Primer and paying the dog tax.

Q: What is this weird new mRNA vaccine? Can it change my DNA?
A: It’s sort of new, in the sense that the ‘delivery mechanism’ has never been used in humans before. The vaccine contains something called messenger RNA, which is a downstream product from DNA. It is not DNA. The messenger RNA is a specific instruction to the protein-making factories in the cells to manufacture a protein that is only found on the COVID virus itself. In essence, the vaccine tricks your own cells into making a piece, but not the whole, of COVID, so that you can generate an immune response.

A “typical” vaccine uses full-sized virus, dead or alive in a weakened state, and shoots it in your arm. Your immune system them selects a part or parts to react to and develops an antibody response. The only reason we didn’t use this for the COVID vaccine is that developing and, more importantly, scaling up the vaccine is much easier using mRNA technology.

The vaccine cannot change your DNA. It has nothing to do with DNA. It cannot give you COVID. It cannot cause any other infections. No one – no one – has died due to the COVID vaccine (as far as we know).

Q: Does the vaccine cause infertility? Can it?
A: No. No it cannot. This myth traces back to a debunked, ex-Pfizer scientist named Michael Yeadon, who also said that COVID was a ‘garden virus’ that would just peter out after the first 40,000 or so infections. There is zero evidence – zero – that any of the COVID vaccines cause or promote infertility. This is a made-up, completely bullshit claim that achieved traction because of Facebook.

Q: I heard from Facebook that the vaccine is just a microchip designed to control us!
A: If you believe this, I’m surprised you have the reading comprehension necessary to make it past Toad on The Road. Get off the internet, go outside, quit being such a dumbass.

Q: The cure is worse than the disease. COVID has a very low fatality rate and I’m at low risk.
A: The second sentence there is true, although some would be unhappy if they permanently lost their sense of smell and taste or had other long-haul COVID symptoms, even if they didn’t die or require hospitalization. If you think the COVID vaccine is worse than getting hospitalized or mechanically ventilated because you can’t breathe, I have a great business proposition selling cosmetics and nutritional supplements that I’d love for you to hear.

Q: Why should I trust you? You’re just a doctor.
A: Getting to the end of my residency means I’ve finished a four-year college degree, four years of medical school, and four years of what is essentially apprenticeship medical training. A trained M.D. or D.O. should have competence in critically evaluating research and understanding what it means, and just as importantly, doesn’t mean. As Bill Nye once said, “the thing about science is that science is true.”

But you know what? Don’t. Don’t trust me. I don’t blame you. American trust in their doctors has been falling for years, largely in inverse proportion to the rising cost of healthcare. I understand – it’s hard to be trusting when your doctor says “nothing to worry about, everything’s fine” and the cost of that reassurance when the bill comes is about the same as a new Audi. It’s impossible to get ahold of us because we are overworked and forced to see far too many patients each day to make enough time for phone calls and emails.

But trust the nurses saying the same thing. Nurses routinely score at or near the top on trustworthiness surveys. Trust them when they say ‘get vaccinated’ and show you their card.

Here’s your dog tax.

If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am. I’m frustrated. I’m tired. We healthcare workers crushed ourselves taking care of our communities for a year. Those of us in the ER and ICU bore the brunt of the surges and exposed ourselves and our loved ones to constant danger. We saw people die that shouldn’t have died, because we ran out of resources to take care of them.

And now almost half of Americans are hesitant or outright refusing the very vaccine that stops a future surge or breakout before it begins – and they are hesitant or refusing because of misinformation, a failure to use their brains, and ignorance. It’s bewildering.

Get the vaccine.

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