Mark Jaben

Dr. Mark Jaben

Many people are unsure about whether to get vaccinated against COVID. A letter to the editor in last Saturday’s Mountaineer provides a good opportunity to put this into perspective.

I have no doubt that someone somewhere has quoted studies with these concerns. However, science works best when studies can be repeated and the same results are found. Often there are conflicting results.

It then becomes important to consider all the available studies, not just one or two, in forming one’s belief. Moreover, a poorly conducted study may be unintentionally misleading and counterproductive to answering your questions.

Might vaccine ‘burrow more deeply into tissues’? This depot affect is possible, but where is the evidence this leads to a problem. Two things can be true, but that does not mean they are connected. I do hope the letter writers’ granddaughter shared with them all the evidence underlying her concerns.

Let’s assume, though, these vaccines have this depot affect and do cause some downstream issues. What’s the greater risk to you — contracting COVID and suffering from it or potential toxicity and delayed unpleasant side affects from these vaccines?

Right now we do not know if there are any delayed affects from these vaccines; they have obviously not been around very long. But here is what we do know.

In Haywood County there have been roughly 3,350 people who have tested positive; that is a little more than 5% of the population, about 1 in 20 people (this does not count the number of people who never got tested when sick or had an asymptomatic infection).

Of these, roughly one in seven have been hospitalized. A little more than 1 in 50 who have tested positive have died. It is correct that these deaths, in Haywood County at least, have occurred in citizens older than 50 and mostly older than 75.

But consider this — these people in almost every case contracted their infection from someone younger. Nobody wants to be responsible for the life of someone else, no matter their age.

From national date, we know those under 50 have not been spared either. Even in these ages, deaths from COVID are far in excess of what would be expected.

Further, national experience indicates roughly 1 in 20 infected have long term symptoms that don’t go away for weeks or even months and may be the result of autoimmune effect.

This disproportionately affects those in the 20-50 age range. In most cases the symptoms with their initial infection were mild.

The consequences of COVID — blood clots, stroke, heart damage and others — are happening now. Don’t underestimate the impact on someone’s life from an ICU stay. It takes months to recover, if ever. Even a regular admission takes a toll. Talk to anyone in the hospital for any length of time for any illness or injury to understand this impact.

The two currently available vaccines were demonstrated in studies to prevent 94-95% of symptomatic illness, including severe illness. This means without the vaccine, of 100 people who get infected with symptoms, we could expect 15 to be hospitalized, 5 to end up in the ICU, and 2 to die.

If all were fully vaccinated, 5 would get symptoms, maybe 1 would be hospitalized, and likely none would get severely affected or die.

Moreover in the vaccine studies, serious anaphylactic reactions, the kind that can kill someone, occurred in roughly 1 in 20,000. In each instance, the person was treated and quickly recovered. None died.

Since the vaccine roll out, this number is closer to 1 in 100,000. Statistically speaking, in Haywood County with a population of 62,000, if everyone was vaccinated, not a single person might have such a reaction.

In the roughly 8,000 people vaccinated here so far, no one has had a serious reaction. Two people had symptoms soon after their injection and were sent to the hospital, but neither was due to a vaccine adverse reaction.

I really appreciate the letter printed in the paper because it brings up something I am sure many people are worried about — the potential long-term risk from these vaccines.

But put this in perspective — the recent Powerball lottery had a projected payout of over $1,000,000,000 (that’s 1 billion) to a winner. The odds of winning were listed as 1 in 302,000,000.

Now if you are the one, what an incredible impact on your life, no doubt. On the other hand, if you go to work this week, what are the odds that you will get paid (assuming a reputable employer)? Which do you want to depend on for your next meal?

Surely, there is a possibility of issues arising down the road from these vaccines. If that came to pass for any one of us, it could have a big impact, but the chance, like winning the lottery, is very small, if any.

We do not have to wonder about what a COVID infection can do. It’s impact is here now and far reaching. So given the actual odds of impact from vaccines vs the impact from COVID, what do you want to depend on for your health?

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