Last week, I took the SARS-CoV2 vaccine at the first invitation to receive it and posted pictures and video on social media right away. I am a board-certified infectious diseases physician who has spent much of her career overseeing programs that help prevent spread of infections in healthcare settings. This past year, I have taken care of several patients with SARS-CoV2 infection and saw several people including family members of friends die from the infection. At the time of this writing, seventeen million people developed the infection in the United States, and more than three hundred thousand of them died from it. In the world, over seventy-six million developed infection, of which 1.7 million people have died. We have seen negative politics surrounding the pandemic and the brash undermining of public health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with tragic consequences. With better leadership and better utilization of prevention measures such as masking, physical distancing, and avoiding crowds, we could have had less infections and deaths. On the brighter side, science delivered wonderfully. We have seen rapid scientific breakthroughs with drug and vaccine development. This past week has seen an unprecedented historic vaccine rollout in the United States, thanks to terrific planning and execution by several agencies including vaccine manufacturers, distributors, public health agencies and health care systems.

In this post, I will share why I took the vaccine and why I am asking everyone to get vaccinated once they can access it. I do not have any financial conflicts of interest. Like many others, I cannot wait for the pandemic to end.

I took the vaccine because I trust the science behind it and the results of the clinical trials that were conducted prior to approval for public use. I want to protect my patients, my colleagues, my family, and myself from the virus. When we take safety measures, whether it is using seat belts or not driving while under influence, or practice hand hygiene, we do not see what we prevented. We see what we did not prevent, e.g., road accidents, infections. That must not diminish our trust in them, but rather enhance it.

Two days after I got vaccinated and posted video on social media, I got a text from a long-lost friend who is an engineer. “Glad to see you got the vaccine and feeling okay after that. You are the only person I know that has got the vaccine. It makes it so real. I can almost see the end of the tunnel! Thank you!” She lives in San Francisco Bay area and said that she shared the video with her mother in Chennai, India. “I was telling mom about you getting the vaccine and shared the video. And I could hear the change in her voice, feeling hopeful to know one person who has gotten the vaccine.” She said her family hadn’t taken the pandemic seriously until one of her cousins became seriously ill from it. She said that her mother had been reading a lot about the vaccine lately and has lots of questions and doubts and worries. Hearing from her was a vindication of the decision to post my video of getting vaccinated. A survey in April this year showed that 42% of American public are hesitant to take the vaccine. This is a concerning but not surprising number. When someone is not sure whether to take the vaccine or not, they look in their friends and family network for someone who has. That’s why friendships, peer influence and positive peer pressure matter a great deal in increasing the use of safety practices. That’s why the reconnection with my friend and what she shared with me was so important! Below, I will discuss why I am asking everyone to take the vaccine as soon as they are able to access it.

Vaccinations have saved millions of lives in our world. Globally, over 23.3 million deaths from vaccine preventable infections have been averted in the past decade alone. Last year on a podcast, I shared some thoughts on the importance of getting vaccinated. Getting the infection is far worse than getting the vaccine. The use of mRNA technology to develop SARS-CoV2 vaccine is novel but not really new. This technology has taken ten years to come to fruition. The rapidity of development of the vaccine led some to question the integrity of the process, but the vaccines have undergone rigorous testing. The vaccine makers took a financial risk based on public health interest and manufactured the vaccine before the phase 3 clinical trials were completed, but it was done openly and in good faith. The rapidity of vaccine development is reason for celebrating science, not for mistrusting it. Overall, increasing mistrust of science has harmed public health in recent decades. It is important for us to speak up against unjustified mistrust. This page on the CDC website has a lot of great information on how vaccine safety has been prioritized and details of the US Covid-19 vaccination program. The Food and Drug Administration approval process is described in this infographic. In this post, one of my colleagues discusses the unprecedented historic rollout of the SARS-CoV2 vaccine, while emphasizing that we do not yet have enough vaccines for everyone in the world.

Vaccines offer us the best chance of controlling the pandemic. However, they are not perfect. That is the reason why we must continue masking, physical distancing and other measures to prevent transmission of the virus. The efficacy of 95% in clinical trials is not expected to translate to 95% effectiveness in real world use. Drugs and vaccines have an Efficacy-Effectiveness gap known as the E-e gap, which is yet to be measured for the SARS-CoV2 vaccine. Just like masking is not 100% protective but still beneficial in preventing spread of aerosols and droplets, vaccines are beneficial even if they are less than 100% effective. In public health, we use layers of defenses against spread of infections, as discussed nicely in this article using the analogy of layers of swiss cheese. Until 70-80% of us get vaccinated, we are not going to have sufficient herd immunity against SARS-CoV2. In an earlier post, I discussed why our fight against covid-19 is much more than war. Our enemies are imperfect science, ignorance, irrational human behavior and inequalities. This pandemic has taken its toll on everyone. Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccination saves lives. That’s why I took the vaccine and ask you to take it when you get a chance.

PS: 1/9/2021 update with side effects I experienced. After the first dose, I had mild soreness of arm at injection site which went away after 36 hours and did not need to take Tylenol. Was able to work and sleep through the pain. After the second dose, the side effects were more severe. I had sore arm for almost four days, and chills and feverishness on the second day, as well as runny nose for a day. I took five doses of Tylenol overall. I felt normal on the fourth day after the second dose. I did work through the discomfort and did not take days off. To me, the side effects are a small price for the immunity gained against the virus. Thank you for reading the post.