Health officials worry that anti-vaccine activists will seize on Powell’s death for claiming that vaccines don’t work. What’s the point of getting vaccinated if you can still die after being vaccinated for Covid-19?
What is the answer to that question? Granthshala Medical Analyst Dr. Lina Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also the author of a new book, “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”
Granthshala: When we see people getting vaccinated dying of Covid-19, how do you explain that vaccines are still worth getting?
This means that if you have been vaccinated, you are six times less likely to get Covid-19 than a person who is not vaccinated. And you’re 11 times less likely to die from Covid-19 than a person without the vaccine. It really is excellent.
However, Covid-19 vaccines do not protect you 100%. There is no vaccine, just the possibility that virtually no medical treatment is 100% effective. This does not mean that the vaccine does not work, or that you should not take it.
Granthshala: Hey Why are some people more likely to have serious consequences from COVID-19 despite vaccination?
Wayne: Yes, and based on what he’s learned, General Powell falls into that category. We know that individuals who are older and have underlying medical conditions are more likely to suffer severe disease and die after successful infection. People at particular risk are people who are immune. Having multiple myeloma would put General Powell in this category, and, in addition to his older age, would add to his level of risk.
Note that this is one reason booster shots are being recommended. Back in August, federal health officials recommended that people with moderate or severe immunocompromised who have had vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna receive a third dose of the vaccine. He cautioned that even with the extra dose, immunized individuals should take extra precautions. This is because it is the category of people who are particularly susceptible to serious consequences.
Granthshala: You’ve said before that vaccines work best when everyone else takes them, right?
Wayne: Absolutely. Think of the Covid-19 vaccine as the very best raincoat. It works great to protect you in a drizzle. But if you’re in a thunderstorm, and then a storm hits, there’s a high chance you’ll get wet. It doesn’t mean your raincoat is bad. This means you are in bad weather, and a raincoat alone may not always protect you.
If you are around a lot of viruses, it increases your chances of getting infected. The problem isn’t the vaccine – it’s that there’s too much virus around you.
So the key is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. This reduces the overall rate of infection and protects everyone. And, if you’re in an area with a lot of virus, wearing a mask indoors in crowded places adds an extra level of protection.
And let’s not forget that we get vaccinated to protect even the most vulnerable among us, who are most at risk for dire consequences.
Unvaccinated people are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized for the coronavirus than fully vaccinated adults, according to a CDC study. As we discussed, people who have success cases due to hospitalization are more likely to be older and have multiple underlying medical conditions.
Granthshala: What other things would you say to people who don’t believe the vaccine is effective?
Wayne: I would ask them to think about other aspects of medicine. Suppose someone has heart disease. There are drugs to treat heart disease, but they are not 100% effective – nothing is. Just because someone has an illness and ends up in the hospital, doesn’t mean the drugs aren’t worth taking.
Or let’s use an example of prevention. Suppose someone who eats a healthy diet and gets a lot of exercise gets high blood pressure and diabetes. This does not mean that diet and exercise are not good. It simply means that you can take all the right steps to prevent a disease, but sometimes you may get this disease.
One of the main problems in public health is that much of the work we do is about prevention. While you see the end result if and when containment fails, you do not see all the lives saved because of prevention.
A modeling study supported by the National Institutes of Health found that Covid-19 vaccines prevented more than 139,000 deaths in the first five months after they became available. As of May 9, there were approximately 570,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States. Without vaccines, 709,000 deaths could have occurred.
The bottom line is that vaccines work. They reduce the chances of contracting the disease and becoming seriously ill and dying. They are not 100% because nothing is.
Granthshala: Can vaccines also prevent a resurgence of the virus this winter?
Ultimately, the key to reducing everyone’s exposure to COVID-19 and ending the pandemic is to get all of us vaccinated. It protects us and the people around us.
Credit : www.cnn.com