To get vaccinated. It’s the right thing to do | Blogs


A young woman who maintains my car told me, “I don’t get the COVID vaccine until the FDA approves the vaccine. I was puzzled. “The FDA has approved three vaccines.” She shook her head, “Only emergency use authorization, not full approval.”

Of course, she is right. The FDA still collects safety data. But the lady made a classic error in the risk assessment. She considered an option and decided she didn’t like the odds. But in fact, she had to consider her two options, side by side: (1) get the shot or (2) not get the shot. BOTH choices carry risks. The objective is not to avoid the risk, because it is not possible, but to choose the path with the best risk profile.

There is always a risk associated with a vaccination. Allergic reactions, temporary discomfort, infection, even blood clots. Other risks can be identified over time. These risks are real, but they are easy to manage or very unlikely.

Six people developed blood clots (one died) after 6.8 million injections of Johnson & Johnson vaccine were given in the United States

The risk of blood clots forming is less than one in a million – about a hundredth of the risk of being struck by lightning. If those 6.8 million people had not been vaccinated, many more would have died from COVID.

The risk associated with her second option, of not being vaccinated, includes COVID-19 and dying from it, or not dying but being a “long haul” and being sick for months or years, or having a mild case.

Going without the vaccine can jeopardize a family’s financial security and increase their risk of passing the disease on to others. By participating in contagion, it contributes to the formation of variants, which appear only when the virus is duplicated.

So, anyway, she faces risks. It’s not like she’s choosing a risk-free option. There are not any.

I spoke to a contractor the other day. He is in his thirties, fit and healthy looking. He has decided to stop listening to the COVID news and is just going to “live my life”. No masks, precautions, vaccines, nothing.

“Once you make that decision, the pandemic is gone,” he said, waving his hand in the air as if to show how the clouds of smoke might clear.

“Well,” I said, “people are still getting sick and dying.

“Yes,” he said, “but I don’t have to know that.

Neither approach appeals to me. The young woman might benefit from listening to Joni Mitchell’s song, “Both Sides Now,” to help her appreciate the need to understand her two options. And the other is a “head in the sand” approach, believing that ignoring a problem will make it go away. What could possibly go wrong?

A study has shown that there are counties in the United States where the majority have already obtained COVID vaccinations, and others where a majority have not chosen vaccines.

The behavior of citizens is closely related to how they voted in the 2020 election. Counties that voted to re-elect President Trump are more likely to resist vaccination, and those that voted for Trump with the largest majority have the lowest vaccination rates. Counties that voted for President Biden are more likely to have high immunization rates, and those that voted for Biden by the larger margins have the highest immunization rates.

We could speculate as to why these two groups of voters behave differently, but that would be another article. This is another example of how humans struggle to manage risk.

I am fully vaccinated. As I follow the CDC’s guidelines, I begin to enjoy meeting small groups of friends who have also been vaccinated. We don’t kiss, we try to keep a certain distance, especially if they have children (who cannot be vaccinated yet). It’s great to see the smiling faces of my friends again.

I always wear a mask when I am around unvaccinated people. It’s to protect them as much as I do. I don’t want to be that person who caused someone’s death from COVID, and I don’t want to encourage variant formation either.

If you are 16 years of age or older, get vaccinated. It doesn’t cost you a dime, it doesn’t hurt much, and you will be doing yourself and the world a favor. It is the right thing to do.

David Kashdan, Ph.D., is a retired director of Eastman’s chemical research division and senior consultant at RISE: Research Institutes of Sweden. Email him at [email protected]

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