What’s in a COVID-19 Vaccine? Hope.

Today my husband and I were able to receive our first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I had tears in my eyes as we received our shots. The tears were not from the needle, but what was inside the vaccine – hope. My heart filled with overwhelming hope for this pandemic to end and our lives to resume.

The past 10 months have been a time of mixed emotions for our family. I have aired the ups and downs of it all on social media and my blog, but what you all cannot fully comprehend is the mental anguish families like mine endure with every single decision we make. We protect our Connor keeping him inside our home away from those who refuse to mask up, social distance, and recklessly live their lives because they are ‘over it.’ But we cannot fully isolate ourselves so we minimize our outings, all the while knowing every outing is a potential exposure. That is a burden I don’t wish on anyone.

We are a family that is fully grounded and steadfast in our faith, and those of you who love us know this. We know that a rational fear of death in a pandemic is being concerned about public health, especially those with comorbidities that would make contracting the coronavirus extremely lethal to them. It is with this rational fear of death my family has taken on rational behaviors as we have faced mortality more times than we’d like in Connor’s 14 years on earth. We don’t expect everyone to take the measures we have, but we do hope they understand the importance of mitigation measures for the good of all, not the comfort of one.

As faithful Catholics we believe that every life is sacred and to be protected, and thus moral judgments made on protecting these lives will directly impact our eternal destiny. As Pope Francis recently said in an interview, “I believe that, ethically, everyone has to get the vaccine. It is an ethical option because it concerns your life but also that of others.” Let it be known we were in good company today receiving our vaccine as Pope Francis received his today too.

So, why did we feel comfortable enough to receive the vaccine?

First, we felt confident that the medical experts who have committed their lives to creating life saving vaccines produced a product that was safe and effective. Every study, every phase, and every trial was reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration and a safety board. Next, the data published from both the Phizer-Biontech and Moderna vaccine trials were impressive producing evidence that the vaccines highly outweighed any issues experienced. I’ll take a 90 something percent efficacy rate any day of the week. Third, I researched the heck out of them, and my research wasn’t on social media or from a politician, it was on medical websites like Medscape, CDC, and FDA. Understanding mRNA vaccines was extremely beneficial and I encourage everyone to do the same. Lastly, the specialists that have guided me and worked on keeping my complex child alive and well for the past 14 years feel confident that the vaccine is safe and the best route to take to protect not only ourselves but, most importantly, Connor.

The most common concerns I’ve heard in discussions are: 1. The vaccine was rushed, and 2. We don’t know the long-term effects of the vaccine.

  1. No, the vaccine wasn’t rushed. It was a priority for obvious reasons. When you combine a drive to end a pandemic plaguing our vulnerable populations, funding, and years of research from previous vaccines and RNA you get results. The vaccine was produced expediently, but it wasn’t rushed, at all, with the design of the vaccine or with respect to the safety and efficacy trials.
  2. Yes, it is true we don’t know long term adverse effects of these vaccines simply because COVID-19 arrived in the USA a year ago, and the vaccine production began shortly thereafter. However, based on researcher’s knowledge of RNA there is little expectations of long-term side effects, but we won’t know for certain for years. In addition, my response is always the same to this concern, and it is deeply personal. I may not know long term effects of the new vaccines, but I have seen the long-term effects of COVID-19 and that is not a chance I’m willing to take.

Let me clear: I respect everyone’s decision whether they choose to receive any vaccine. It’s a personal decision that should be made rooted in research, discussions with their doctor, and their religious beliefs.

However, vaccine hesitancy based on misleading and false information spread on social media is an imminent threat to this pandemic. As people of good-will we should do our due diligence to seek out information from reputable sources written by medical experts, not a screenshot of a Facebook post or a politically biased news blog. Just because a nurse, rad tech, doctor, phlebotomist, your neighbor’s friend, your aunt who works for a pharmacist, etc claims something about the vaccine – it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Every person has a role to play in limiting the spread of this virus and ending this pandemic whether it is by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask when around others, social distancing, isolating at home, or at the very least not supplying unfounded claims about a virus or vaccine that is certainly out of our level of expertise to others. The history of COVID-19 has taught us that we are all vulnerable to the virus in one way or another. Some have very mild symptoms; others lose their life. Some recover unscathed; others are riddled with long-term health complications. But one thing is certain – this virus is extremely contagious, and you may not be greatly affected by contracting it, but you could unknowingly contribute to the spread of it to someone who would be. No one wants that to happen. NO ONE.

With every mitigation measure followed, and with every vaccine received, we are one step closer to normal life where we can attend church in person, gather with our friends and family, and not agonize over going out and about. If you have the pleasure of already doing these things, then welcome to the lives of the vulnerable. We really need your support so the rest of us can resume the lives we once enjoyed too.

God bless and protect you. And thank you from the bottom of my hopeful heart.

Reliable resources for information…

CDC COVID-19 Vaccines Info

John Hopkins Medicine: Coronavirus Vaccines Infographic

Medscape: Why COVID Vaccines Are Falsely Linked to Infertility

Your Local Epidemiologist Blog

Pfizer-Biontech Vaccine Briefing Document

Moderna Vaccine Briefing Document

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