Many in our community have questions regarding the safety, efficacy, and necessity of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. A local coalition of healthcare leaders is stepping forward together to help answer these questions and demonstrate that for an overwhelming majority of people, the COVID-19 vaccines are a safe and critical element in ending the pandemic. If we all pitch in and get our shots, it will help us to be able to safely and enjoyably get back together with our family and friends, go to work together, and resume our travel and recreation to the fullest, while not endangering those around us.
It is understandable to have doubts or to be worried about whether you should get the vaccine or allow your children to be vaccinated. Addressing your concerns with your primary care physician or reaching out to local healthcare organizations are great ways to learn more about the effectiveness and safety.
For example, development of the various COVID-19 vaccines did not occur as quickly as it might seem. Extensive clinical trials and knowledge from years of developing similar vaccines demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA is not an indication that the vaccines are questionable, but rather that data collected from trials along with years of development of other vaccines similar to the COVID vaccine indicate that the benefits of it far outweigh the risks. Consequently, the FDA will soon be granting full authorization.
There is also confusion surrounding vaccine safety and fertility, due to a false report that circulated on social media. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination “causes” any problems with fertility, and if you are or trying to become pregnant, that should not prevent you from becoming vaccinated after consultation with your physician as appropriate.
If you know or suspect that you may have already contracted COVID-19, that does not prevent you from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Science cannot state with certainty if or for how long people are protected are getting infected with COVID-19 (with our without symptoms), however, evidence suggests this “natural immunity” might not last long. Reinfection is still possible, as are the adverse effects from contracting COVID-19.
Another misconception is that COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in the US can change your DNA. The messenger RNA from two of the first types of COVID-19 vaccines do not enter the nucleus of the cells where DNA resides. The mRNA vaccines allow the cell to make only a specific portion of the COVID-19 protein that then can stimulate the recognition by our immune system. The mRNA present in the vaccine will quickly break down after entering the cells — without affecting your DNA.
The bottom line is this: getting vaccinated helps protect you and others around you, particularly those who may be at increased risk of severe illness in general, but even more from COVID-19. The more of us who are vaccinated means the faster we reach population immunity, which makes it more difficult for the disease to spread and protects those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants and people who are allergic to the vaccine.
As of May 24, 2021, the vaccination rate in Collier County for those 65 years and older is 87% (one or more doses) and for those 12 years and older is 59% (one or more doses). The goal is to get as many people as possible vaccinated in our community and reach a minimum of 80% to fully avoid another rise in COVID cases.
This has been a significant uphill battle, and this is the time to be cautiously optimistic about our future, so we can keep on track with the positive direction in which we’ve been moving: reopening our community and getting back to socialization, fully opening schools and getting back to normal again.
Presenting a united front, we want to share with the community that the vaccine is safe, and the vaccine is highly effective. This is not the time to slow down our vaccination efforts.
Remember it all starts with you! Take the next big step in ending this pandemic by receiving your COVID-19 vaccine as appropriate and recommended. Do your part and help crush COVID-19 in Collier. To find a COVID-19 vaccine clinic near you, visit vaccines.gov, floridahealthcovid19.gov, bit.ly/NCHCOVIDVaccineClinic, or ccmsonline.org/resources/#covid. Additionally, you can also text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find a vaccine location near you.
Rebekah Bernard, MD, President, Collier County Medical Society Board of Directors
Kim Kossler, MPH, RN, CPH, Administrator, Department of Health–Collier County
Emily Ptaszek, PsyD, MBA, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer, Healthcare Network
Alejandro Perez-Trepichio, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Millennium Physician Group
Kristin Mascotti, MD, Chief Medical Officer, NCH Healthcare System
Min Chung Kim, MD, Medical Director, Neighborhood Health Clinic