Recently, I was fortunate enough to receive my vaccination against coronavirus. To say that I was relieved would be an understatement. As an emergency medicine physician, I know that I am exposed to COVID every time I go to work. Since COVID first came to Maryland, I had spent every shift wondering if I would contract the virus and, worse, if I would bring it home to my family. This vaccine represents, to date, the best weapon we have to turn the tide against this virus that has ravaged us for so long. In the coming weeks, this vaccine will hopefully become available to the general public. When it does, I have a simple favor to ask: please get yourself vaccinated!
I realize this is potentially a big favor to ask. I know there is a lot of distrust surrounding the vaccine and I know many are hesitant to get vaccinated. I have heard countless patients, some of whom have lost loved ones to the virus, tell me that they do not plan to get the vaccine. If you are one of those people, please reconsider!
Vaccines work. In fact, the World Health Organization states that the only thing better at eradicating disease is access to clean water. The COVID vaccines are incredibly effective: Pfizer’s vaccine has been shown to be 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infections and Moderna’s is 94%. In the medical field, it doesn’t get much better than that. I know some are wary of a vaccine that was developed so quickly but both Pfizer and Moderna have been open with their data and their data shows that these vaccines are that effective. Regardless of which vaccine you ultimately receive (I got the Pfizer vaccine) you will be very well protected.
The vaccine may protect you incredibly well but the only way for the vaccine to truly eradicate the disease from our midst is if everyone gets it. The goal of any mass vaccination program is to get enough people vaccinated to provide “herd immunity”. Herd immunity occurs when enough people have immunity to a virus that person to person transmission becomes very unlikely. Experts like Dr. Fauci estimate that 75-85% of us will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
Getting to herd immunity will be incredibly important for PG county! The county leads Maryland in both number of cases and, sadly, in number of COVID related deaths. COVID has particularly ravaged many of the county’s most vulnerable. It is well documented that COVID-19 disproportionately affects patients with chronic disease, individuals above the age of 65, Latinos, Black and Brown communities and lower income populations. While these groups represent 55-60% of the US COVID cases, they represent over 90% of all COVID fatalities.
Please, PG County, I am imploring you to get this vaccine. COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll here but we finally have a weapon to fight back. This vaccine works; it can protect you from this deadly virus and getting it also helps everyone else in the county by getting us closer to herd immunity. Hopefully, when enough of us get vaccinated, we can put this nightmare behind us.
Dr. Gregory Jasani, MD is an emergency medicine resident physician at the University of Maryland Medical Center.