Vaccine Choice: Why Can’t We Just Get Along?

Updated: Jan 23

I am a physician and someone who almost died from Covid. I have watched the conflict from pro and anti-vaccine groups and I think neither group is communicating. I think it’s fair to argue that the vaccine does not prevent the disease. That is a fact. It also does not prevent you from becoming a carrier. Really this comes down to whether you believe your individual status is more important than society as a whole. It depends on whether or not you feel any obligation towards your seniors, your parents, and other at risk individuals. I can see the point of view that it is not any one individuals responsibility to save the world.

So here is my point of view. By reducing the access for the virus by making your immune system stronger, You reduce the likelihood that you will take up a bed that someone with illness may need. That is a fact. So if your child breaks a leg and needs surgery he won’t wait. That has value. But it’s not just about inundating the healthcare system. It’s also about the severity. The usage of ICU beds, complex nursing resources, and respiratory staff creates stress that reduces access for other diseases. The long-term trauma this is creating for my medical colleagues is not measurable. So many of us are leaving medicine and we will leave a hole in the healthcare system. If you think it’s hard to find nurses now or quality front desk staff or medical assistants, another pandemic wave will make them endangered species.

I listened to a patient of mine who had several anecdotal stories to tell me. Her brother had a heart attack after a vaccine. Her niece developed severe migraines. She said this to me:

“I personally know 2 people who have died from the vaccine with coroner's reports witheld until next year, at least 20 vaccinated people in my direct circle who have had negative effects (Bells Palsy, clots, unexplainable bleeding, heart issues,). Some who have had it to keep their jobs and are now unable to work. I know of 3 people in my local community (school / fitness) who have mysteriously died in their sleep in the past few weeks. No actual reason provided, one a 14 year old girl.“

So my response was measured. I have lived with the scientific method my entire career. this is one of the major conflicts between the pro and con groups. Those with the scientific background can’t believe that there are people who don’t believe in avoiding bias and confirming causation via the scientific method. Those who have never done anything other than rely upon their intuition and their personal experience, can’t believe that there are people who don’t believe what they see in front of them.

So I told my patient:

you have an empirical view where you sample what you see and decide your course. Scientists do the same thing except in large volumes that are representative of a larger population. They also work overtime to exclude bias. People who died in their sleep? Did they have sleep apnea? Was it treated? An arrhythmia? When was the last time they had an EKG? Or even a physical exam? You are drawing connections that require proof to a scientist. You aren’t wrong necessarily, but you also aren’t right. Because the intense hard work of Proving your point has not been done. Observer bias in small populations is a well known problem. If you take the average health of a population and subtract the known death rate factored for age, and then you have an excess you still aren’t done. All other known causes have to be excluded. It is tedious, painful work. So when you dismiss an epidemiologist or a virologist who has evaluated 50,000, a 100,000 patients in sequence all I would ask you to think about is what do I know and how do I know it? Have I excluded all forms of bias that could lead to false conclusions ? I think it is very important that all of us learn to talk the same language and at least understand our thought process. So although you may not agree with me, I want you to understand that we see the world differently And these methods of understanding are why we are in conflict.

It is precisely because we have entirely different logical constructs, that we are in conflict. If you believe only what you see and your personal experience drives your decision making, or if you live your life based on scientific data collection and careful elimination of bias, this is precisely the conflict that will ensue. In some ways, practical empirical data collection is a form of very basic science. It is critical that we talk to each other without putting each other down or using political platforms. There is a middle path where everyone can be treated fairly but it requires mutual respect.

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