I’m moving to Vermont.
Not really, but it seems like Vermont is full of reasonable people who make good decisions based on facts and data. Right now 83% of the eligible population has been vaccinated in Vermont and they only have 3 people hospitalized with Covid. They also have lovely trees that turn vibrant colors in the fall and large quantities of maple syrup.
Meanwhile here in the Midwest, I continue to hear people insist that we need to get back to ‘normal’ all the while completely disregarding the best tools we have to ACTUALLY get back to normal. Living our lives in denial, as if we are not in the middle of a worsening pandemic, is not a solvent strategy for overcoming the pandemic. So here we are now… Covid cases are going up, the Delta variant is a son-of-a-bitch, hospitals are full and I’m back to stress eating ice cream straight from the carton.
So what, you might ask, are the best tools we have to try to get back to normal? Great question, thanks for asking!
#1: Get vaccinated! For the love of all that is holy, get vaccinated! For the love of your kids, and my kids, and your parents, and your grandparents, and your coworkers, and your friends, and the school system, and the economy, and the healthcare system…get vaccinated!
But it’s a new vaccine! How do I know it’s safe?
I understand that people are anxious about a new vaccine, but nearly 150 MILLION people in the US have been fully vaccinated and there have been no case reports of anyone sprouting a second head, growing fins or becoming radioactive. Of course there are rare side effects from the vaccine, but this is true of any vaccine. And it is important to remember that when you hear “well, he got his Covid shot and then he had a heart attack,” it’s way more likely that the heart attack was not the result of the vaccine but rather the fact that his left main was 99% occluded to begin with because he’s been eating fried chicken daily for the past 50 years. In my 15 years taking care of patients, I have encountered exactly two people who I’m pretty sure had long term adverse effects from a vaccination, but none to date with significant side effects from the Covid vaccine. What I have encountered, however, is a lot of people who have died of Covid. I’ve lost track of how many which makes me really sad.
But vaccines are made from aborted babies!
So…interesting story. In 1973, an elective abortion occurred in the Netherlands. Cells were harvested from fetal tissues and have been propagated in a lab for nearly 50 years now. These cell lines (HEK 293) have been used in the development of vaccines for decades. Moderna and Pfizer used these cell lines to ensure that the Covid vaccines were effective, but there are no cells or tissues in the actual vaccines. So…while you can be opposed to abortion all you want, prioritizing a cell line that was harvested when TVs were still black and white, over living breathing people in the present doesn’t make any sense.
I don’t need a vaccine because I’ve already had Covid!
Interesting argument. However, we don’t know how long natural immunity from infection lasts and we are seeing people re-infected with Covid after a primary infection. Additionally, natural immunity from the OG Covid virus does not appear to be as effective against Delta. So the recommendation is to get a vaccine as soon as you are recovered from an active infection because the vaccine is more effective than natural immunity!
If I get Covid and die, so be it!
Hard core, dude. Hard core. But here’s the thing. If you get super sick from Covid, you are not going to just camp out on your couch eating Doritos and gasping for breath until you die. You are going to freak TF out when you can’t breathe and you (or your family) are going to call an ambulance. When you roll into the ER, you (or your family) are going to tell the doctor to DO EVERYTHING! Because honestly, very few people come to the ER and turn down potentially life saving interventions. So…then you end up on a ventilator and we ship you off to the ICU (if we have room), shoving needles in your veins and tubes into the majority of your orifices. From here, you either die (original plan, but now you’ve taken up a hospital bed and used up precious resources…and you’re full of holes and tubes), you recover, or you are left in medical purgatory which could range from a nursing home with a tracheostomy and a feeding tube, to home with chronic medical conditions. And you’ve probably exposed a few people to Covid along the way.
But people who got the vaccine are still getting covid!
Accurate! But people who have been vaccinated are generally not dying of Covid. Currently less than 1% of Covid deaths are in vaccinated individuals. That means more than 99% of deaths are in the unvaccinated population. Y’all, this is nothing short of miraculous. Yay science!
Okay, enough about vaccines…moving on to our second strategy for GETTING BACK TO NORMAL!
Oh man…for a hot second, I felt somewhat comfortable going out in public without a mask. Especially to the liquor store…. Unfortunately we are seeing breakthrough cases in vaccinated people (as noted above), so with a vaccination rate in my community that is somewhere around 50% and breakthrough cases, I’m back to masking up. Am I afraid of getting Covid and dying? Nope (see above…again)! But what I don’t want to do is get Covid and spread it to my friends, family, co-workers and patients. Like…it’s not about me (gasp!).
And as for schools….sweet lord have mercy…. The American Academy of Pediatrics (made up of doctors who specialize in taking care of kids and keeping them healthy, safe and alive) has come out with a very clear stance on this. These experts are in favor of requiring masks for all children over 2 years old, SO THEY CAN RETURN TO SCHOOL, SAFELY, IN PERSON, AND THEIR PARENTS CAN STOP TRYING TO HOMESCHOOL THEM, WITH WHICH THEY ARE FAILING MISERABLY, WHICH LEADS TO SELF LOATHING AND RESENTMENT OF THEMSELVES AND THEIR COPARENTS AND ANY OTHER HUMANS THEY COME IN CONTACT WITH, WHICH RESULTS IN EXCESSIVE ICE CREAM AND ALCOHOL CONSUMPTON WHICH LEADS TO MORE SELF LOATHING AND BITTER, BITTER TEARS. Okay, the AAP didn’t say all of that, but if you attempted home schooling last year, you feel me.
So, beyond following the advice of pediatric specialists who are using their extensive education and vast experience to advocate on behalf of our children, we also need to look at society in general. Sure, kids (in general) seem to fare better than adults, but they can still be infected with and spread Covid. Even if you could guarantee me that no children would get seriously ill with Covid this year, it would still be prudent to keep them in masks to reduce transmission in schools. When kids share their Covid with each other, they bring it home to their families and the cycle of doom continues. And if they have a parent or family member with cancer or a compromised immune system, it could be disastrous.
But in reality, there is no guarantee that kids will not get super sick and even die. You should know that there are kids in the ICU in KC with Covid…needing life support to stay alive. And then there are the immediate and long term complications of Covid, including MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) and other conditions that we don’t fully understand yet. I’d rather my kids not have to deal with any of this.
Also…I would propose that if you feel your child is being repressed or emotionally harmed from wearing a mask, you are entitled to keep them home and do some mask-less remote schooling. Or perhaps we should teach them to be adaptable and put the needs of their friends, teachers and community above their annoyance at wearing a mask. I mean goodness…it will cover their adolescent acne…that seems like a win! And don’t give me any of this business about “they have to walk around the school and they can’t breathe in a mask!” This middle-aged, not-so-in-shape, mother of three walks all over a hospital that is bigger than any high school I’ve ever been in and walks up 8 flights of stairs on the regular. In my mask. And I haven’t died. I haven’t become hypoxemic or hypercarbic. Your teenager will be okay.
And now for a closing reflection: I never imagined, when I became a doctor, that people would be so hostile toward my (and my profession’s) genuine attempts to keep them safe, healthy and alive. It’s been an unsettling realization, to say the least.
I think that’s enough for today.
Links to helpful resources: