I’m getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and so should you

Markowitz_Steven headshot  Jan 2021Steven Markowitz, MD, DrPH, a physician specializing in occupational and environmental medicine, directs the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment and is a professor of environmental sciences at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). The Insulators Union has been working with Dr. Markowitz for many years and appreciates his expertise on issues that matter to our industry and our members.


Some people have expressed reluctance about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, citing concern about side effects and the effectiveness of the vaccines. This is understandable, given how quickly the vaccines were developed and the political overlay on the push to secure useful vaccines for COVID-19 disease.

So, let us examine what we know so far.

As of late February, COVID-19 had killed more than 500,000 Americans. No one has died from being vaccinated, and more than 64 million Americans have received the vaccine. So here is the score card: 500,000+ COVID-19 deaths and no COVID-19 vaccine deaths.

The existing vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) were tested using the gold standard of study methods (randomized clinical trial) in very large populations (more than 30,000 each). They showed a very high level of effectiveness – 95 percent. Nearly 20 times the number of unvaccinated people developed COVID-19 disease in the trial compared to the people who were vaccinated.

These two studies were done entirely separately, but achieved the same results. These events make us very
confident these vaccines work.

So far, the only detected, important side effect of the vaccine is a severe allergic reaction in a very few people within a few minutes of being vaccinated. These individuals were immediately and successfully treated. Once the allergic reaction is reversed, no ongoing effect from the reaction is expected.

Anyone who gets vaccinated must wait 30 minutes at the vaccination site to see if they develop a reaction. If they do not, they can go safely home. The most important thing to remember is very few people develop an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Millions of people have now received the vaccination. If there were important immediate or short-term side
effects, they would have been detected by now, and none have been reported, except for the allergic reaction. Vaccines, in fact, do not cause long-term health problems, despite what some people say.

It has been suspected that the flu vaccine causes a nervous system problem in a few out of every million people who receive it. However, a few years ago, a National Academy of Sciences report reviewed all available studies and found no solid evidence the flu vaccine causes long-term health effects. There is no reason to believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is any different.

With some of these issues hopefully put to rest, here are a few reasons to get the vaccine as soon as possible– protect yourself, help others and set an example.

Protect yourself

The vaccine will greatly protect you from becoming ill from COVID-19, especially from severe COVID-19 disease symptoms or death.

Help others

You need to get the vaccine to help others – your family, friends, people in your community and the rest of us – from getting COVID-19. The virus only spreads from person to person.

If fewer people have COVID-19 virus in their bodies, the virus is less likely to spread. The “chain of transmission” (going from one person to the next) will slow and eventually die out (or nearly so) when it cannot spread from person to person, because most people are vaccinated.

So, when you get the vaccine, you stop being part of the chain of transmission. It is like having a sign on your forehead, “The virus stops here.”

Set an example

You need to set an example for others. People will feel more comfortable getting the vaccine when others they know and trust, have received it and recommend it.

It has been truly hard to connect to other people during the pandemic, but getting the vaccine and informing others is a vital way to connect with and help your friends, family and community.

So, get the vaccine as soon as you can!

I know that I will. And it will not be soon enough!

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