I keep seeing patients who are still too afraid of getting the COVID-19 vaccine: Doctor

·3 min read

A man recently brought his elderly mother to my hospital – she was very ill with sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection. It took significant effort to save her life, involving ventilators, large IVs in the neck and extended rounds of powerful antibiotics. Her son told us she had been suffering with a bad urinary tract infection for a week before coming. It was easily treatable at that point, but because he waited, it spread to the blood. He said he was afraid to bring her into the hospital earlier, because he feared we would force the COVID-19 vaccination on her.

Despite hundreds of millions of vaccinations against COVID-19 given out in the United States, the fear against the shots continues. It is unnecessary. This poor lady suffered unnecessarily – not only because the hospital cannot force a vaccination against someone’s wishes, but because science and medicine, time and again, have shown these vaccinations to be overwhelmingly safe, with the benefits far outweighing the risks.

Whole families opting out of vaccine

At a time when many high-risk individuals are getting a booster, a third of Americans 12 and older still are not fully vaccinated. It is not uncommon for me to make my rounds on patients sick with COVID-19, suffering from dangerously low oxygen levels, only to find out that their husband or wife is having the same illness in the room next door. Whole families are deciding not to get vaccinated because they are, they say, afraid of side effects; still waiting for research; or do not trust Dr. Anthony Fauci or the government.

To those who still have reservations against vaccination – listen, you are running out of excuses. As the delta variant continues, we need everyone to buy in and protect themselves and others.

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We recently reached yet another grim milestone last month when the number of deaths in the United States from COVID-19 surpassed the number of deaths from the 1918 flu pandemic. This is remarkable because a century ago, we did not have the vaccines, medicines or robust public health campaigns that we have today. I doubt we had the paranoia and abundance of misinformation back then, either.

There are more than 711,000 deaths from the virus in the USA, and apparently only three confirmed vaccine-related deaths despite over 400 million doses administered.

These vaccines are safe. The Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine and likely will do so with the Moderna vaccine. The vast majority of known side effects are minimal.

Unvaccinated? It's time to get on board

For those still unvaccinated, it is time to get on board. Vaccinations will likely soon be recommended for younger children, and some argue this may be key to stemming the pandemic in the USA. But this hinges on the assumption that we trust our doctors and public health officials, and are willing to vaccinate ourselves and our children.

Do it for their future. Do it for our present.

Dr. Thomas K. Lew: Once we were all fighting COVID-19 together. Now it's us against the unvaccinated

I had a long conversation with the son of the elderly woman with sepsis. The first thing he said was that he wished he had brought her in sooner. We then discussed his fear of vaccination against COVID-19 – despite taking all other recommended vaccinations in his life, he had been poisoned by misinformation from social media and conservative “news” shows. Dispelling these myths took some time, but eventually he was happy to ask for vaccinations for his mother and himself.

Dr. Thomas K. Lew after his COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 18, 2020, in Pleasanton, California.
Dr. Thomas K. Lew after his COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 18, 2020, in Pleasanton, California.

Please do the same and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations – get vaccinated and if you fall in a high-risk category, get a booster. And if you still have doubts, please talk with your local friendly doctor – we’re happy to answer all your questions as long as you keep an open mind and listen.

Dr. Thomas K. Lew, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, is an assistant clinical professor of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and an attending physician of Hospital Medicine at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare. All expressed opinions are his own. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasLewMD

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Patients afraid of the COVID-19 vaccine are running out of reasons

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