Why should you get the COVID-19 vaccine? Because I love you. You may laugh, but hear me out. I have been a family doctor in Cottage Grove for 11 years and I love this community. I live here, my kids go to school here, and you are my people. I care deeply about each and every one of you and I want you to make the best decisions for your health and for our community. I have heard the concerns of many community members and want to address the ones I hear most often.

Dr. Thea Petersen is a PeaceHealth Medical Group family medicine physician in Cottage Grove.

Q: I’m healthy so do I even need the vaccine?

A: Yes. We are seeing even low-risk people get very sick, including children. There is also a large number of people who have symptoms that last for weeks to months after having Covid. I certainly don’t want to be exhausted or have a headache for months. I’m sure you were as scared as I was early in the pandemic that you would unknowingly bring Covid to your at-risk family member or friend. If you don’t feel compelled to get the vaccine for your own health, do it for your loved ones.

Q: I’m worried about safety because the vaccine came out so quickly.

A: Isn’t it amazing?! I prayed for a vaccine at the beginning of the pandemic to get us back to normal life and had no idea it would happen so quickly. Funding and collaboration are big reasons why it happened so quickly. Look what we can do when we put our brains together. The mRNA technology has been used for years in treating other illnesses including developing a vaccine for SARS that ended up not being needed. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not only the fastest vaccines to be developed, but are also the most effective with the lowest rates of side effects. 

Q: Do the vaccines work?

A: Yes. The Delta variant is so contagious that you are now very likely to get Covid if you aren’t vaccinated. Vaccines are still very effective, even against the Delta variant. They are especially good at preventing hospitalization and death, even if you get Covid. If you are vaccinated, you are still unlikely to get Covid. If you do get COVID, you’re less likely than an unvaccinated person to get seriously ill, you are contagious to others for a shorter period, and you will not be a host in which the virus mutates and creates a new and potentially worse variant. 

Q: Is the vaccine safe? What about years down the road?

A: Yes. Vaccines are designed to get your body to make antibodies to fight infection and the vaccine material doesn’t hang around. We don’t see long-term complications from vaccines. If something bad is going to happen, it’s going to be within the first four weeks after vaccination (usually sooner). The rate of anaphylaxis is 2-in-1 million, which is about the same chance as dying by lightning strike. The rate of blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 3.3-in-1 million and lower with Pfizer and Moderna. Contrast that with over 15,000 per 1 million people with Covid experiencing a blood clot. The rate of blood clots in women receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 9-in-1 million. Although the risk is still very low in women, it is higher than in men. So women of child-bearing age might consider a vaccine other than Johnson & Johnson. Myocarditis and pericarditis risk is also much greater with Covid illness than with the vaccine and no deaths have occurred from vaccine-associated myocarditis. There is no evidence whatsoever that vaccines cause infertility and they are recommended for those pregnant and breastfeeding. There are other reports of people dying shortly after vaccination that haven’t been directly linked to the vaccine. Even if we were to assume the worst and they were all vaccine-related, the risk would be 1.8-in-1 million, the same as being struck by lightning. I could go into much more detail, though best to let you ask your trusted healthcare provider. 

Q: What if I already had COVID?

A: I’m sorry. I hope you’re feeling better. You should still get the vaccine. We don’t know how long your antibodies will last or if they will be flexible enough to protect you against new strains of Covid.

 

Thank you for reading. I truly want what is best for you. Vaccines are a very effective tool for helping us get to the other side of this pandemic and I hope you will join me and get yours for the sake of your community and mine. 

Dr. Thea Petersen is a PeaceHealth Medical Group family medicine physician in Cottage Grove.