The back-to-school checklist just got bigger. Counties across America are requiring staff and children of certain ages to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and unvaccinated employees and parents not planning on vaccinating their children feel backed into a corner.
With many experiencing anxiety about the looming requirement, we decided to talk to Harry Scholtz, Beam Healthcare’s VP of Infectious Disease to learn more about immunization.
What Causes Mistrust in Vaccination?
According to Vox, lack of access and lack of trust in vaccines are some of the reasons Americans are opting out of the COVID-19 vaccines. Various COVID-19 vaccine theories spinning around online have caused hesitation, and news of a breakthrough infection or side effects aren’t encouraging those on the fence.
We now are seeing an increase in cases due to the Delta variant with 50% of the United State’s population unvaccinated according to Our World in Data. The threat of another surge is causing the vaccinated to convince their unvaccinated family and friends to book appointments for the first dose.
More recently, the unvaccinated aren’t only being convinced, but required to get vaccinated. Some workplaces and schools now require proof of vaccination to come into the office or classroom. These changing vaccination requirements are certainly on the minds of healthcare providers across the country, including Dr. Scholtz.
Talking with Dr. Scholtz, we are reminded that healthcare providers see the vaccine as not a privilege, but a necessity. “You’ll never see a lifeguard without sunscreen”, he states jokingly before sharing that the high vaccination rates among healthcare workers should comfort the public and speak to their effectiveness.
Easing your Vaccination Worries
Scholtz explains that the best way to fight off COVID-19 is the human immune system, and next is the vaccine. The vaccine primes your body’s defenses against the virus making it very effective. He says that vaccines, in general, are the single most important medical invention in terms of extending life. A report from the World Health Organization states that today vaccines prevent 2.5 million deaths per year: that’s five lives per minute worldwide.
In his work as the VP of Infectious Disease, he gives a lot of credit to antibodies, but says they still don’t measure up to vaccines in terms of increasing life expectancy. Having vaccines to build up our immune system against diseases has had large effects on our average life span. The CDC states that immunization can prevent epidemics and eliminate diseases and their serious consequences.
The way that we can eliminate diseases is through herd protection, which happens when a significant portion of the population has immunity. For example, “a measles outbreak among preschool-age children in the USA in which the attack rate decreased faster than coverage increased”. This means that the spread of measles decreased faster than the amount of people who became immune. According to the Bulletin of Health Information, “Because of herd protection, some diseases can be eliminated without 100% immunization coverage”.
It’s still important to get vaccinated so that the community can achieve herd protection. According to the World Health Organization, we can achieve herd immunity if a significant amount of the population gets vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is a way to protect those vulnerable people who can’t get vaccinated due to health conditions or age.
Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Too New?
Skeptics can rest assured that the development of the COVID-19 vaccine started 25 years ago with mRNA research for cancer therapy. What is new, however, is the vaccine technology. The new packaging system for the mRNA research was a key player in COVID-19 vaccine research.
Technology has played a big part in response to the pandemic. Scientists were able to develop vaccines with new technology and clinics and hospitals were able to take advantage of telehealth to provide better care. Even though there is a new packaging system to access information, the vaccine research has been around for much longer.
COVID-19 and Immunization
When talking to Dr. Scholtz about his role as the VP of Infectious Disease, he was just sitting down to eat during the afternoon call. He had been swamped at work due to a surge in patients who contracted COVID-19. He explained that because of the mask mandates being lifted and the new Delta variant spreading, he and his team were experiencing an influx of COVID-19 patients.
The risk of contracting COVID-19 is on the rise. Dr. Scholtz shares that the best way to protect yourself is getting vaccinated. For those who are worried about still getting COVID-19 even after being vaccinated, the breakthrough infection rate is less than 0.10%.
Scholtz sees patients through a hybrid model of telehealth developed by Beam Healthcare. He gets to follow patients through their treatment from critical care to in-patient by using telemedicine. Being able to provide care at each step helps the overall quality of care. Scholtz, seeing the patients who get COVID-19 and have to battle the virus with medicine, knows the vaccines for prevention are more effective than having to battle the virus with drugs.
Let’s Protect Our Communities
Scholtz pointed out the three things that go through his mind when thinking about COVID-19:
- I don’t want to get COVID-19
- If I do get COVID-19, I don’t want to get dangerously sick
- I don’t want to give COVID-19 to anyone, and they get dangerously sick
The vaccine is a tool we have in our arsenal to prevent those three things from happening. If you get vaccinated you have a very low chance of catching COVID-19. If you do catch the virus the risk for serious infection is very low. Lastly, having protection against catching the virus will make it less likely that you spread the virus to others.
Even if you’ve had COVID-19 before, you are still at risk of getting the virus again. If you’ve had COVID-19 and get vaccinated at the appropriate time after you will have very high immunity. It’s recommended that you wait until your body is done fighting off the virus before you get the vaccine, but if your doctor gave you monoclonal antibodies you must wait 90 days before getting the vaccine. These measures are taken so you aren’t overwhelming your immune system. There are many benefits to the vaccine and serious side effects are very rare.
Finally, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is best for your community. Workplaces and schools want to protect their environments, which is leading them to require their employees and students to provide proof of vaccination. If you still have questions, you can consult official resources such as the WHO or CDC, as well as ask the healthcare provider who is administering the vaccine.
We hope you enjoyed our blog for Immunization Awareness Month. Together, we can make our communities safer. Click here if you want to read more about Beam Healthcare and our services.
We are a group of unified clinicians passionate about achieving healthcare equality through the use of telemedicine in underserved communities. We strive to bring quality hospitalist programs and specialty care to local hospitals and clinics. Our belief is everyone should have access to quality comprehensive healthcare. Through Telemedicine Moving Forward we aim to bring positive change to our patient’s lives and the healthcare systems that serve them.
- Andre, FE, et al. “Vaccination Greatly Reduces Disease, Disability, Death and Inequity Worldwide.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, vol. 86, no. 2, 2008, pp. 140–146., doi:10.2471/blt.07.040089.
- Lopez, German. “The 6 Reasons Americans Aren’t Getting Vaccinated.” Vox, Vox, 2 June 2021, www.vox.com/2021/6/2/22463223/covid-19-vaccine-hesitancy-reasons-why.
- Millersh. “When Should You Get Vaccinated If You’ve Had Covid-19?” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 16 July 2021, health.clevelandclinic.org/when-should-you-get-vaccinated-if-youve-had-covid-19/.
- Ritchie, Hannah, et al. “Coronavirus (Covid-19) VACCINATIONS – Statistics and Research.” Our World in Data, 5 Mar. 2020, ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations.
- “State Vaccination Requirements.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 Nov. 2016, www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/laws/state-reqs.html.
- Rappuoli R, Pizza M, Del Giudice G, De Gregorio E. Vaccines, new opportunities for a new society. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014;111(34):12288-12293. doi:10.1073/pnas.1402981111