Mortality and morbidity data collected over the course of the COVID 19 pandemic clearly demonstrates that it has the most severe effect on people who are age 65 and older, and individuals with comorbidities. According to Texas death certificate data, more than seventy percent of the deaths directly caused by the COVID 19 pandemic are among people 65 years and older. Additionally, increasing evidence shows that adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions have an increased risk of severe disease, defined as hospitalization, admission to the ICU, mechanical ventilation or death. That’s why here in Texas, COVID round one vaccines are now being made available to Group 1B. Group 1B is defined as people for whom there is strong and consistent evidence that COVID 19 makes them more likely to become very sick or die. Pretty sobering words, don’t you think?
America’s trust in coronavirus vaccines began to wane however this past autumn, according to Gallup. It coincides with when the Phase 3 trials for AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate were temporarily halted after a participant in the UK was suspected of having developed serious side effects. It didn’t help matters that the whole discussion surrounding the vaccine became politicized, and then hyped by the media. In a December Kaiser Family Foundation poll, only 71% of those surveyed said they would probably or definitely get the vaccine. Distrust of the vaccine was widespread among certain segments of the population. For example, only 42% of those identified as Republicans said they definitely or probably would not get the vaccine. Additionally, 35% of African-American adults, 36% of adults aged 30-49, 35% of rural residents, 33% of essential workers, and 29% of those who work in healthcare also said they would definitely or probably not get the vaccine. I took a number of statistics classes in college, which means that I have forgotten most of it given that I am of the age group which qualifies under Group 1B. Nevertheless, I remember enough of it to continue to be amazed at how polls like this, with a sample size of 1676 US adults, can so finely slice and dice segmentation among the populace. But I digress. At any rate, this is a trend which worries the FDA.
Recently, I took my own survey with a sample size of 1, myself. On the one hand, I recognize the reluctance of anyone to take an unknown vaccine. Just imagine how reluctant people in England were when Dr. Edward Jenner performed the world’s first vaccination in 1796. Similarly, think how terrified people in the US must have been at receiving the polio vaccine in 1955 which contained elements of the virus, even though they were inactivated. By contrast, the COVID 19 vaccine attains its immunity by manipulating elements of our RNA. On the other hand, I realize that because of my spinal cord injury, I only have about 30-40% of my lung capacity available to me. That means if I caught the coronavirus and had to go to the hospital. I would not want to go on a ventilator because I would likely not be able to come off, if I even survived. So, for me it is pretty simple. The fear of the unknown (taking the vaccine) is mitigated by the fact that people a lot smarter than me developed it. Balanced against that is the likelihood of almost certain death if I caught the virus in any level of significance. I would not attempt to project my survey to a circle any wider than a 1 foot radius around myself, but when I received a call for an appointment to take the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, I did not hesitate.
So, what about you? As a member of the Group 1B, how do you feel about all this? I welcome your feedback.
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