While I recognize the controversy surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination and truly struggled with leaping into this article with said topics as a focus, I feel it is my obligation to the health status of our community to speak out.
First and foremost, my words are not intended to be political, incendiary, or offensive. I’m not proposing that people’s rights be taken away or that everybody needs to “drink the Kool-Aid”. Rather, it is my intent to share some personal observations from my
experiences talking with my patients, friends and families during the course of the pandemic. I also wish to communicate known information from reputable sources from scientists and medical professionals who have reviewed what is evidence-based so that people, in particular women, can make good decisions about their health care.
Of course, you can open your Facebook feed, tune into your preferred news organization, talk to your friends or go with your gut about this pandemic, but I’m asking you to look beyond your usual. Perspective is gained when information is reviewed from outside of yourself, looked at critically, with a nod to having a healthy level of distrust of swallowing all that is presented to you hook, line and sinker. If you only talk to those people who agree with you, you won’t ever gain a well-rounded or well-informed perspective, because it takes stepping outside of your comfort zone to fully understand a situation. In addition, if those people that have spent a good portion of their lifetime studying viruses and infectious disease are giving advice, I do believe that deserves some credit and taking notice.
So what do we know about COVID-19? We know it is a deadly coronavirus with 40,516,940 confirmed cases and 659,316 deaths in the United States and 1,239,293 confirmed cases and 14,726 deaths in North Carolina to date at the time of this writing (according to data from WHO and CDC on Sept. 6, 2021).
With these numbers, I think it is easy to depersonalize the impact of this pandemic. After all, if you haven’t personally lost someone to COVID-19, the running numbers may seem just like the droning of someone reading financials on Wall Street or counting blades of grass. But there are many people who have lost someone dear to them to this coronavirus and many people who had severe illness with residual effects from it.
During the past year and a half, I’ve seen a lot of these people. They are not faceless or nameless. My husband's close childhood friend lost both of his parents last summer. I’ve had
patients who lost their husbands and grandparents, patients who were hospitalized, patients who had daily headaches, malaise and fatigue for months following infection with COVID-19, and patients who couldn’t figure out what to eat in their first trimester because virtually everything they tried to eat “tasted like rotten meat.”
I have a patient who lost her sister to suicide after struggling with being a COVID-19
long-hauler. I’ve had a nurse-practitioner student who worked in the ICU that I was precepting coming back from working all weekend to tell me how physically and emotionally exhausted she was after having five of her patients die.
So you might ask me — well, have you had a patient actually die from COVID-19? My honest answer is no. Not yet. But I feel the writing is on the wall. With the new Delta variant being more contagious and data pointing to more severe illness, hospitals are quickly becoming overwhelmed, staff are getting burned out and resources are being stretched. As of early September, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System reported that 17 out of 18 hospitalized patients were unvaccinated and five out of five patients on ventilators were unvaccinated.
In my practice, many women have been vaccinated but still quite a few have been reluctant. There is a lot of information out there to be sure, and it is hard to know what to believe. Most people who know me know that I tend to prefer the natural approach to health care in general, but I stand behind this vaccination as our best chance at saving lives and getting COVID-19 under control.
In our office, we are in full support of following what the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) among several other national health care provider organizations recommend: that all pregnant women get vaccinated due to increased risk of severe illness, preterm delivery, hospitalization, need for a ventilator and even death. All of these professional organizations have reviewed the scientific data which have shown excellent safety profiles for the vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine has full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and the other vaccines are expected to follow. This approval means it is not just approved on an emergency basis. It is approved, period. It is approved the way Tylenol is approved and every other medication for which you can get a prescription in this country.
With regard to pre-pregnancy use of the vaccine, there is no data that shows impact on fertility for men or women planning pregnancy. Recommendation is also for vaccination of breastfeeding women. If you are interested in reading more, go to www.acog.org/covid-19.
Outside of the childbearing years, I encourage all persons 12 years of age and older to be vaccinated. Just because some people have mild illness, does not mean that you will. Children and teens are making up an increased number of hospitalized patients nation-wide. Short-term vaccine side effects are certainly better than long-term COVID-19 side effects or death.
In addition, by qualifying folks getting vaccinated that helps protect those who are unable to become vaccinated, including newborns, children and individuals with certain health conditions. If you have a health condition that may impact your response to vaccination, talk to your health care provider. If you choose not to be vaccinated, which is absolutely your choice, then please respect the fact that your choice may impact others around you and wear a mask and social distance.
Lastly, if you have questions about the vaccine, how to get it, what to expect or other
concerns, please reach out to me, your primary care provider or someone else with medical knowledge so we can help. From the bottom of my heart and from all the knowledge in my head, I truly believe that we are all in this together and will get through it together.