Ask Athena: Take This Jab and Share It

A simple plan for curbing COVID (including Omicron)

Q: I’m not an anti-vax person. I believe in science and I believe that my chances for contracting a more severe form of COVID are lessened if I have the vaccine. But since the disease is 99% survivable, it seems odd to me that we should be forced to get inoculated. Especially since the vaccine doesn’t stop you from getting sick or spreading the virus anyway. A person should have the choice to rely on their natural immunity, Athena. Change my mind.  – Doubting Thomas on Midvale

A: You say you want me to change your mind, so I will take you at your word even though you come across very confident in your stance. No doubt you’ve done your research! Unfortunately, science gets outdated maddeningly fast – and twisted very easily in the telephone game of social media. Numbers matter but not without context. Allow me to take a stab…

Misinformation Alert:  The “99% survivable” rate you’re quoting is technically accurate but very misleading. “Case Fatality Rate” is a statistical figure, not to be confused with mortality risk, which varies from individual to individual, depending on a age, health history and even where you live.

COVID has been a leading cause of death in the US this year, surpassing even cancer and heart disease. This goes for all age groups – including children. All kinds of conditions can be contributing factors, like obesity, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc plus external influences such as pollution to healthcare options. Fun Fact: Philadelphia is a high-risk city along with Detroit, Miami, New Orleans and Baltimore.

Reality Check #1: Vaccines work even if they’re not perfect. While vaccinated individuals can still be infected, their chance of needing hospitalization is almost nil: 95% of all COVID hospitalizations in PA this year were unvaccinated people, and 97% of the deaths. As for transmission, it’s true that vaccinated people can spread COVID, but not nearly as bad as unvaccinated people.

Reality Check #2: There is NO natural immunity to COVID. That’s what a “novel” virus is – a pathogen humans have never encountered, against which our bodies have no defenses. The only way to gain immunity from COVID is to either get sick or get stuck.

If you don’t care about yourself, at least think about the strain on healthcare, not just the resources per ICU patient in isolation but this drain affects other care. People have died from preventable illnesses, just trying to find a hospital bed. COVID is tied to literally thousands of other fatalities.

Legal Precedent: This is not the only mandate the government has made for vaccinations. The government has been issuing vaccine mandates since George Washington’s army received crude and mandatory smallpox injections during the Revolutionary War.

In 1905, the Supreme Court declared that municipalities had similar authority over their residents to prevent the spread of contagious disease. Today in Pennsylvania, every schoolkid needs to be inoculated against tetanus, diphtheria, measles, polio, chicken pox, Hepatitis B… and most likely now COVID-19.

Evidence: Vaccines are ridiculously safe. Reactions are rare and overdosing on antibodies isn’t a thing. Numerous reports of people accidentally receiving 4, 5, even 6 times the proper amount – one woman even had a whole vial! – and the worst side effects were a painful injection site and flu-like symptoms (which can be caused by a normal dose, as well).

Over 190 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – across all genders and ethnic groups, with remarkable success. It’s safe for pregnant/nursing women and, in fact, there are no known medical conditions where the possible side effects of the vaccine would outweigh the risk of COVID.

If you’re still hesitant, please click on some links in this article, shared from a variety of sources from the media spectrum. The truth can save your life.

Finally: you know these shots are FREE, right? In many cases you can just walk right into a CVS or Walgreens, even Costco and Shoprite have pharmacies read to stab you with the good stuff. Locations plus more info at vaccines.gov.

If anything I’ve said here has convinced you to get vaccinated – please tell a friend. Better yet, tell all your friends. Help spread the word that we can all make a difference in getting this public health crisis behind us.  — A

**MESSAGE FOR THE FULLY VAXXED**

The FDA has approved booster shots for all adults, at least 6 months after your 2nd Pfizer/Moderna dose and at least 2 months after J&J. Consider a vaccine different than the one you got, for a broader immunity.

Worried about side effects? Read our “Worst Case Scenario” survival guide with helpful suggestions on how to avoid the worst. Quick Tip: hydrate with lots of Gatorade a day or two before your appointment. Eat lots of salty snacks, so your body’ll hold onto the extra fluid until you need it. #bonus #YUM

*** OMICRON UPDATE ***

As this piece was being published online, the WHO announced some troubling news: a new variation of coronavirus had been detected with as many as 50 genetic mutations — at least one of these appears to make the virus much more contagious. This doesn’t necessarily make it more dangerous, but scientists are scrambling to learn more as this new “Omicron” strain spreads out across the globe from where it first appeared in South Africa, overtaking “Delta” and setting off a 4th wave of (dubious) travel restrictions.

Vaccines are still our best bet! It’s highly unlikely even a “super mutant” like Omicron can evade all our defenses. Vaccines as well as our own immune systems are made with mutations in mind: protection isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. Our antibodies can adapt to neutralize new tricks a novel virus throws at us. Boosters play a significant role here, re-stimulating our body’s defense system to create these new antibodies for a counter-attack.

There’s no need to panic. While science works on assessing threat levels and creating next steps, we need to double-down on wearing masks, distancing from others, and — most importantly — getting vaccines and boosters as soon as they’re available. For more information, follow the links in this article and, when in doubt, confirm facts with a reliable site like phila.gov’s Covid-19 page which provides the latest case numbers, testing data and vaccine info.

To stay up to date on the very latest scientific information in real time, follow the excellent (and free) substack, Your Local Epidemilogist, which emails a fact-packed report every morning.

AGREE? DISAGREE? Please comment below. Send your questions to AskAthena@nwlocalpaper.com

Read last month’s Ask Athena here.

About Athena 31 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to askathena@nwlocalpaper.com.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.