What’s in a COVID-19 Vaccine? Hope.

My husband and I were able to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the past month, and 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 11 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. Connor’s life has showed us the importance of living for others, and we are grateful for it.

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 the day we received our first vaccine dose as Pope Francis received his that day 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 JAMA Network, 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 to keep 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 are: 1. The vaccine was rushed, and 2. We don’t know the long-term effects of the vaccine.
–I’ll let a Medscape article speak on the first concern: “I am very confident in the safety and efficacy of these vaccines,” said Zahn, medical director at the Division of Epidemiology and Assessment, Orange County Health Care Agency, Santa Ana, California. The vaccine development process was compressed into a shorter time period because there was a heightened focus during the pandemic and a lot of additional resources, Hewlett said. “The result was the development of two vaccines rather rapidly, which have been shown to be safe and effective — the mRNA vaccines.” “And there are other vaccines and other platforms we believe will also be safe and effective,” Hewlett added. “The point cannot be emphasized enough: There was increased velocity of development bringing these vaccines to evaluation by the FDA and ACIP, but this did not involve skipping steps,” Zahn said. 
–The second concern is common with many new, medical advances or technologies, however there’s nothing in the technology or the clinical experience to date that suggests any risk or reason for long-term side effects. I can tell you what some long term effects of COVID-19 are, and one of them is one I’m not willing to risk.

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/or 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 – a life of extreme caution and seclusion. 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.

Other reliable resources for information…

State COVID-19 Data and Policy Actions

John Hopkins Medicine: Coronavirus Vaccines Infographic

Medscape: Why COVID Vaccines Are Falsely Linked to Infertility

Your Local Epidemiologist Blog

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