The public needs to be ready to take the COVID-19 vaccine when availableBy Veita Bland, M.D. / November 12, 2020
Every time I ask a patient to take a flu vaccine and they tell me no, a little piece of my heart dies. They tell me no because they say they do not get flu shots. Ultimately it has to do with trust. Trust that the healthcare system is not trying to play on them and experiment with their body. Whether right or wrong, patients need to trust that I have their best interest at heart. Also, people need to recognize that the healthcare system is not playing them short.
When there is lack of trust in a government that the people see as not working for their interest in a time of pandemic, that lack of trust gets exacerbated. Hopefully with the change in our government’s leadership we will see a greater interest in taking the new COVID-19 vaccines when they are approved and as the trust in the government’s motives are less suspicious.
Data from the CDC website states that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu by 40 percent to 60 percent among the overall population when well matched. Data from the CDC shows that during the 2019-2020 flu season, only 38 percent of Hispanic or Latino persons received the flu vaccine, 41 percent of non-Hispanic Black persons received the flu vaccine, 42 percent of American Indian or Alaska native received the flu shot, 52 percent among Asian persons and 53 percent among non-Hispanic White persons received the flu shot. These stats are pretty dismal all the way around in my book.
The new technologies of the new vaccines for COVID-19 are revolutionary. No more are we seeing a weakened or killed virus being injected to induce immunity. The new technologies use DNA and RNA from the virus to induce the body to learn to recognize the COVID-19 virus and attack it. Other new technologies use a virus that is harmless to ferry a gene from the COVID-19 virus into our cells again teaching our immune system to see it as an enemy and produce antibodies against it. These vaccines are engineered and thus can be produced much more readily. These new and novel ways are just downright amazing.
There are more than 200 experimental vaccines being researched at this point. Data from the Washington Post lists 14 of these vaccines are in Phase 1 trials where they are being tested in a small number of healthy, young individuals to look at their safety and correct dosage. Fifteen of these are at the Phase 2 stage of testing where a larger group of people are given the vaccine. This group includes some people who are at higher risk. Approximately ten of the vaccines are in Phase 3 testing, where thousands of people are given the vaccine to check its effectiveness and safety.
This rapid production of vaccines is impressive as the average time to bring a vaccine to market is 10.7 years. We are still waiting on a vaccine for HIV.
We have taken a seat at the table with these vaccines. With now added security that these vaccines are being checked and double checked for safety, we all need to educate ourselves about these vaccines. When they become available in the spring and fall of 2021, we will need to be ready to decide if we want to take them. This pandemic will continue until a safe and effective vaccine is available. That time is coming much sooner than originally thought. Let’s be ready for it.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.