I came across a random person on the internet recently who stated the following, and I just had to respond more carefully. "I have been begging to get this virus that kills less than 98% of the people it infects. Short of licking public door knobs I have literally tried everything. I have an autoimmune disease, the vaccine will more than likely take me out, but if I allow my body to deal with it naturally I will have a better chance."
There is so much in that statement to comment on. First of all, let's talk about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. As of today, 157 million people in the United States have received at least one shot of a vaccine, with 123 million being fully vaccinated. Of all of those more than 100 million people, to my knowledge a single person has died as a result of the vaccine. While this is tragic, it has likely saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people during that time period.
According to the CDC, a few hundred (2 to 5 per million) have had anaphylaxis after the vaccine. This is why one is required to wait 15 minutes after Pfizer or Moderna. Each site that administers these vaccines is required to keep an eye out for the symptoms and administer medicine, and no one has died as a result of that.
The Johnson and Johnson (Jansen) vaccine, while not subject to anaphylaxis, is subject to an even rarer, but more serious problem. 28 women, of 9 million vaccinated, have reported Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a serious blood clot condition. This one, unlike the anaphylaxis previously discussed, can happen as long as 6 weeks after the vaccine is administered. These women all had low platlet count. If you are considering getting vaccinated, have had issues with low platlet counts in the past, and are female between the ages of 18 and 50, you might consider a different vaccine to remove that risk completely. At least one women reportedly died after receiving this vaccine. It is worth noting that this is a potential side effect of COVID-19, and likely the same individuals who had the TTS after receiving the Jansen vaccine would have had similar issues should they have caught the real COVID-19. Of some note, there has been at least one male diagnosed with the same issue, although it appears to be much rarer in men than women.
But wait, I heard there was 4000 deaths from the vaccinated? What's up with that? Well, anything that could remotely be considered a side effect of receiving any vaccine can be reported. To date, the CDC has stated that 4,434 individuals died who were vaccinated. Each one of these is independently reviewed, and with the exception of the TTS previously mentioned, none have been traced to the vaccine. For comparison, if one assumes a human lives about 80 years, than every day there is about a 1 in 29200 chance of dying. This means that of 100 million people, about 3424 would have died on the day they received the vaccine by random. Considering that deaths can be reported for days after being vaccinated, and it seems pretty clear that if there is a chance of dying, it is pretty slim.
What about the natural immunity? The current thinking is that natural immunity works for about 3 months. There are a number of repeat COVID-19 cases, and that seems to be as long as we can be confident it will work. Vaccine derived immunity is higher, to the point of working for at least a year. We can look at the antibodies to determine how well it is working, which is why we know this to be the case. My wife, who tested positive for COVID-19 in early January, got vaccinated recently just to make sure she doesn't get it again.
But wait, is this vaccine even approved? The COVID-19 vaccine is approved under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). What does that even mean? First of all, every single test that is normally done with a vaccine to demonstrate it is safe was done with the COVID-19 vaccines. This includes having 20,000 adults vaccinated to test for any possible complications, for at least 2 months prior to submitting the results. Any issue, even remote, causes the trials to be put on hold until the issue can be understood. This was done a number of times, as can be seen from this article. While the desire to get this vaccine out there was immense, the desire to make certain it was safe was even higher. Even the smallest rumor of an approved vaccine having issues has lead to the halting of the vaccine distribution, as has happened with the Jansen vaccine with respect to TTS. If it is determined to still be safe, then the vaccines can continue. Full approval is currently being worked on by Pfizer, and Moderna likely will follow suit this month. The single biggest question that a full authorization is likely to answer that we don't have now is how long will the immunity last? With people only having been vaccinated for 2 months before the EUA, we only knew the vaccine would work for 2 months. Now we have enough data to make predictions about for how long it will actually work, which is likely closer to a year or two. Is it worth it to wait for 6 months to know that the vaccine would only work for 6 months? I leave that up to you to determine.
But being vaccinated or not, it's my choice, shouldn't I be allowed to make it and not be forced to in any way whatsoever? There are some who legitimately cannot get vaccinated, including those severely affected by an immune disorder. Those people deserve to go in public just as much as anyone. Who are you to limit their choices because you opted to not get a free vaccine that is currently easily available? Another example, I would love to travel the world, but currently most countries will not accept a person from the United States, because the risk of COVID-19 exposure is too high here. Some allow fully vaccinated, but others do not even allow that. While no single individual not getting vaccinated will make a huge difference, even 1% of the population can.
Basically when it comes to any business opening up, there are 3 choices that can be made. They can keep the business closed, and lose out on income and providing that service. They can keep the business open to all, but risk spreading COVID-19. Or they can open the business taking reasonable percations, like limiting it to those with the vaccine, and be just as safe, and still opened up.
I do want to say that I'm not in favor of most places requiring vaccination. I am in favor of anywhere that has a high chance of spreading COVID-19, which means indoors densly populated, and not something "essential" being allowed to make that decision. This would include cruise ships, movie theaters, and similar locations, but not public transportation, government services, medical facilities, etc. Requiring those using those services to take percautions still makes sense. Stores are not in this group, the risk of transmission in a store has always been fairly low. Gyms, well, I'm a bit more mixed about this one, would need some thought.
The bottom line is this. If you are a healthy individual living in the United States ages 12+, you should get vaccinated ASAP. If you have a condition that was not fully tested, like an autoimmune disorder, pregnacy, or similar condition, I strongly advice you talk with your doctor and ask them what they advise, and follow it. Do not leave it up to me, or any other random person on the internet to make that decision, talk with a doctor you trust that knows your medical history! But get it if you can, and ask if you have any questions, because you getting vaccinated might be the difference between a friend or a friend of a friend who has a disease that can't get the vaccine catching COVID-19 and dying. It is a small price to pay to help others!