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"The light at the end of the tunnel" is here: a coronavirus vaccine! Public health experts from Dr. Anthony Fauci to Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, recommend you take yours as soon as you're allowed. "I'm going to look at the data, but I trust Pfizer, I trust the FDA," Fauci has said, adding that he'd be happy to take it himself on live TV if necessary, to get people excited about getting their own. That said, this rollout is the first of its kind, and doctors secretly have some fears that not everything may go according to plan—75 to 80% of us need to be vaccinated to get back to some degree of normality, no small feat. Read on to hear their concerns, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Everyone Thinks There's Nothing to Worry About Anymore
"95 percent efficacy is nothing to sneeze at," writes F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, Co Director, Human Genetics and Clinical Research Core, at Yale, in an excellent article in Vox. "At that level of efficacy, even if people loosen up, go out to dinner, and wear masks less after they get vaccinated, we should still see a dramatic decline in infections. The problem with the false sense of security is not societal, it's individual. When a vaccine is 95 percent effective, everyone who gets it assumes they are in the 95 percent. No one thinks they are in the 5 percent, but 5 out of every 100 people are."
The Side Effects Surprise People
"We really need to make patients aware that this is not going to be a walk in the park," said Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association, during a virtual meeting with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the CDC. "They are going to know they had a vaccine. They are probably not going to feel wonderful. But they've got to come back for that second dose." Reported side effects include headaches, a fever, a pain in the arm and—in two notable cases—an extreme allergic reaction.
The Side Effects Are Blown Out of Proportion by Anti-Vaxxers
"This is already happening," worries Dr. Wilson. "The real worry is how much it will affect the broad-scale vaccination effort. We need to get about 70 percent of the population vaccinated (or infected with Covid-19, which would be ethically wrong) for herd immunity to end the pandemic. That's a high bar, and the power of social media to amplify false or misinterpreted messages and spread them far and wide is huge. I'm not worried about the 'microchip tracking devices' nonsense. I'm worried about anecdotes."
People Might Skip the Second Dose Because the First Dose Hurt
The shot requires two doses in order to work. Will people go back twice if they don't have an OK experience the first time? Nurse researcher Kristen Choi, Ph.D., RN, experienced a "worst-case scenario," she wrote in a perspective piece published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, feeling "light-headed, chilled, nauseous, and had a splitting headache." She recommends you get the vaccine, but wants you to know these things can happen.
Not Everyone Has Access to the Vaccine—for the Same Reason the Virus is Hurting Certain Communities so Much
"There are currently 80 million people in the US with no regular access to doctor's care, many of whom have significant comorbidities that no one is documenting," writes Dr. Wilson. "These are predominantly people of color and of lower socioeconomic status. These are also the people who have suffered most during the Covid-19 pandemic.In other words, they are the people who would most benefit from the vaccine. And they may be left behind."
How to Stay Alive Until You Get Your Vaccine
As for yourself, follow the fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene and to protect your life and the lives of others, and don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.