Dr. Baldeep Singh was one of the early recipients of a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s his Perspective.
The news that I could get vaccinated against COVID had me excited and giddy on Christmas Eve. I went early Christmas morning to get my gift from the scientific community and celebrated with a selfie reflecting my good fortune. I know how lucky I am to help protect myself, my loved ones and my patients from this illness.
With the staged COVID vaccine delivery program upon us, several staff members had asked if I planned on getting the new vaccine. As a healthcare worker, I thought a lot about this. For me, the evidence looks clear that early and sustained use of these vaccines will save lives, and although the long-term data are not back, on balance, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Many Americans have forgotten or never knew what the fear of devastating childhood and other infectious diseases was like before vaccines. Fifteen-thousand Americans died from diphtheria in 1921 alone, but as a result of mass immunizations, only two cases have occurred in the past decade. Since then technology and safety have improved for vaccines, and millions of lives have been saved worldwide.
Granted, these COVID vaccines are new. Healthy skepticism is appropriate, and I honor the historical distrust communities of color harbor. Still, I had examined the studies, all of which have received great scrutiny, so I knew what my personal decision would be. We need to remember, as with face masks, that vaccines are mostly about protecting others, not just yourself. A decision to avoid the vaccine will potentially place others, particularly the most vulnerable, at risk.