Vaccine misinformation found online can be confusing

There are still many residents of Columbia and Greene counties who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination, with many citing extensive misinformation found on social media as the basis for refusing the vaccine. The massive volume of misinformation found online can be very confusing. The key to making an informed judgement about vaccination is to rely on the experts and scientists, and not on speculative and unfounded allegations. Medical societies review this data and develop collective expert views that help direct the medical community. They are all unified on this position: COVID vaccinations save lives and are safe.

Unfortunately, not all sources on the internet meet this critically important standard. When you look at the valid scientific data on vaccination, the picture becomes quite clear: The vaccines are safe, readily available at any pharmacy, highly effective, and free.

How safe are the vaccines? We have administered over 6.7 billion doses of vaccine worldwide and have extensive data from many sources demonstrating its safety. Virtually every other daily activity you engage in, from walking down the stairs to driving your car to eating too many unhealthy meals, presents far greater risk than the COVID vaccine.

People go to their doctor every day for advice. You are prescribed medications with complete trust that your doctor is acting in your best interest. It is our ethical responsibility to provide you, our patients with proper guidance on all things medical. A recent American Medical Association study showed that 98% of the physicians in the United States have received full vaccination. I believe this sends a clear message to society about our faith in the COVID vaccination as a profession.

I believe there are three key reasons to get vaccinated. The first is to protect yourself. The Washington Post recently reported that the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that about 90,000 people died of COVID-19 since April. This includes every age group. Moreover, 99.2% of all COVID hospitalizations in June were unvaccinated individuals. Please understand this: You have a significantly higher likelihood of death if you are unvaccinated. Even if you have had COVID already, you are 2.5 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 again than if you were vaccinated. Also, vaccinated individuals may still get COVID in relatively rare occasions, but at a significantly lower frequency, and with significantly milder symptoms. In addition, vaccinated people do not spread the disease as easily as those unvaccinated.

This leads to the second reason for getting vaccinated. Societal impact necessitates all of us working together to combat the virus. The more opportunities the virus has to grow and spread, the more likely it is to mutate and create a strain that is even more deadly. To prevent deadlier strains, we need everyone medically eligible to get vaccinated. If we remain divisive, we prolong the pandemic and all its associated challenges.

And finally, we all have people we care deeply about. Some are young and some are old, and some have medical issues putting them at even greater risk. Do you want to risk getting COVID and spreading it to a friend or family member who may succumb to the disease? I have seen many people struggle with the death of a loved one and the guilt that comes with this when they had COVID-19 and possibly spread it to the loved one. The mental anguish that accompanies this can be lifelong. All we can do is get vaccinated and use all the precautions at our disposal to protect our families. The rest is often beyond our control.

At the end of the day, it is your choice, but please consider the potential implications of your choice before delaying any longer.

Ronald J. Pope, DO, Vice President of Medical Services, Care Centers, Columbia Memorial Health.

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