What are you waiting for?

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and easy to get

Wouter Rietsema, MD, Vice President Population Health and Information Services, AHMC & CVPH

If you are waiting to get vaccinated, what specifically will end the waiting? If you are vaccinated but still masking, when will you decide it is safe enough? We don’t typically wait forever for anything. There is usually an “until.” What is your until?

If you are waiting until there is more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, here are a few facts that may ease your concerns:

  • As of June 11, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 172 million people have received at least one dose in the US and more than 141 million are fully vaccinated.
  • As yet, other than the rare cases of blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, there are NO significant safety concerns. Meanwhile, nearly 400 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported on June 9, 2021.
  • As of the end of April, the CDC has safety data on 4,700 pregnant women who were vaccinated. There was no increase in miscarriages, stillbirths, pregnancy complications, preterm births, fetal abnormalities or infant deaths over normal rates.
  • COVID-19 vaccines do not affect fertility. Circulating social media stories that COVID-induced antibodies can bind to a protein important for placenta formation are proven lies. A study just published compared the placentas of women who were vaccinated while pregnant with those who were not vaccinated and found no evidence of any abnormalities. Meanwhile, it is well known that pregnant women who develop COVID-19 illness are a greater risk for severe illness than non-pregnant women.

If you have been fully vaccinated but are reluctant to take off your mask until you don’t have to worry about getting infected, here are some facts to help you think about how safe it is now.

According to the CDC (as of May 17, 2021), the risk of:

  • Infection after vaccination is less than 1/10,000
  • Hospitalization after vaccination is 1.1/100,000
  • Death due to COVID-19 after vaccination is 2.44/1,000,000

These numbers will continue to go down as overall rates of COVID-19 continue to decline. Here are some other mortality risks for comparison:

  • Trauma: 1/28 in a lifetime
  • Suicide: 1/92 in a lifetime
  • Motor vehicle: 1/108 in a lifetime
  • Gun violence: 1/315 in a lifetime

Does your until include worrying about giving COVID-19 to others if you have a breakthrough infection after vaccination? That was everyone’s concern when vaccination started, but we know so much more now.  It is theoretically possible, but:

  • There are no published cases of transmission occurring from asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) breakthrough cases.
  • Despite not being at 70% community vaccination, COVID-19 rates are plummeting. Vaccination clearly prevents transmission.
  • Asymptomatic breakthrough cases are very rare and show very low levels of virus. Low levels of virus are less likely to transmit.

Masks protected us when that was all we had and still protect those who have not been vaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated, however, you are safe from COVID-19 and the people around you are safe from you. The vaccines provide a level of protection so exponentially greater that wearing a mask adds the tiniest fraction of safety for you or anyone else, especially compared to the risks we accept within our normal lives. For me, the value of a smile is so much greater than that miniscule benefit of the mask now that I am vaccinated.

The calculation is different within the walls of a hospital. Because so many of our patients have weakened immune systems, we aim for even lower risk. Therefore, to make sure everyone is protected as much as possible, we will continue to follow state guidelines requiring anyone entering our facilities to wear a mask. As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, vaccination and transmission of the virus, this may eventually change, but not yet.

The decision to get vaccinated is a personal one. So how can those of us who are vaccinated convince others to join us if we don’t act like the vaccines are the miracle that they are?

The vaccines are safe, effective and easy to get. What other information or incentive do you need? So many of your family, your co-workers and your community have taken the shot. Smiles are back in style. If we all get vaccinated, we all get back to normal faster.

What are you waiting for?