August 2, 2021

Blame, Shame, Fear, & Vaccine Hesitancy.

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*Editor’s Note: it’s only a choice in the sense drunk driving is a choice. ~ Waylon

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“You b*tch! I’m going to f*cking kill you!”

I’ve had a few patients say this to me. I knew at the time that they were suicidal, overwhelmed, delusional, or hallucinating.

Even so, being the target of aggression sucks.

I’ve taken away these people’s rights. They were too dangerous. They tried to kill themselves or somebody else. I’ve had them humanely tied down and injected them with medications that they did not want. I did it with the intention to help them and to keep everyone around them safe. This is never an easy decision to make. These are human beings. People with voices and free will.

Recently, I’ve seen respected public and private organizations calling for mandatory vaccinations. This makes me cringe. They haven’t suggested that we pin people down and forcibly inject them. But they are suggesting that we immobilize them by denying them the ability to work and live freely until they get vaccinated.

We need to pause here and take a deep breath.

In medicine, we force treatment on someone if they pose an “immediate” and “life threatening” danger to themselves or another. A justifiable fear surrounds Covid-19, and many of us want to protect ourselves and our loved ones. I know that many feel that a non-vaccinated person may be threatening their life. I know this fear can seem overwhelming. It makes sense that we are afraid. It also makes sense that we want the pandemic to end.

The thing is, the danger that an unvaccinated person poses to the rest of the world is a far cry from the threat of a homicidal being.

As a physician, I took an oath to do no harm. I did not say less harm. I pledged to do no harm.

The vaccine does save lives and lessen symptoms. It could particularly protect high-risk populations. But, to me, it does not look like the vaccine, even with high rates of administration, will end the pandemic. The vaccine is a piece of a bigger story. The vaccine comes with its own risks—though only a small percentage of people have been shown to have side effects.

All people deserve honest information. All people deserve to make choices about their own bodies when the imminent threat of death is not in question.

This brings me to the popular narrative circulating:

“If everyone would just get vaccinated, this would be over.”

To me, this sounds like a narrative of shame and blame. It sounds like,

“If you are not vaccinated, this is your fault.”

I’ll be honest, I’ve done this too. I have been in life or death situations in the hospital when someone was the opposite of helpful. I’ve reacted by lashing out: “You shouldn’t do that.” “If you had just done this.”

I learned the hard way that when people are hit with either shame or blame, they shut down. Shame and blame make a bad situation even worse.

Blame is also a risky critter. Life can become pretty awkward when blame is misplaced.

Let’s circle back to the vaccine and check in on blame. Has it possibly been misplaced?

Vaccinated people have repeatedly been shown to shed viral particles—in some studies, in equal amounts as those who were unvaccinated.

We are seeing that in isolated populations, where most or perhaps all were vaccinated, a tiny number of people still became infected. The vaccine manufacturers themselves advise that their shots may only be anywhere from 55 to 95 percent effective.

I have been taking care of covid patients in the hospital for over a year now. A few have unfortunately died—some were young. The loss of life has been tragic.

I have also seen the majority of my patients recover.

The even better news? Those who have been infected and developed their own antibodies to covid produce good quality antibodies (which also degrade over time).

Several recent studies, including one from the Cleveland clinic, have shown that these “innate antibodies” (those that we develop naturally after an infection), are equal to antibodies generated from the vaccine.

Antibodies are antibodies—whether they are innate or the result of a vaccine—they all count toward herd immunity.

Are you open to hearing more exciting news? All of us, even those in high risk groups, can do many things to increase our chances of survival.

These range from optimizing our vitamin D levels, to using the FDA-approved post exposure treatment with regen-cov, to early treatment regimens with steroids and high dose vitamin C.

The truth is, we each have tremendous power to increase our level of personal health.

The foods and supplements we eat, the ways in which we choose to move our bodies, and the strategies we use to manage stress have a major impact.

Being healthy requires much more than simply being vaccinated or having antibodies.

Decreasing the anger and fear that drains our bodies and burdens our immune systems is also a key component. If you have to take a break from the media, people and things that feed your anger and fear, do it.

We also benefit from returning to the basics. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Stay home when you are sick. Collectively focusing on the ways that we can help ourselves and our neighbors is critical.

My community weathered the first few waves of Covid relatively well because people looked out for each other. Now I am seeing the vaccine debate polarizing people, and that is unhealthy for all of us.

We are facing an ongoing threat and it may be time to stop fighting and politicizing the virus, which only makes things worse.

What if we did what felt right for our body and trusted others to make their own decision [no matter the effect on others? ~ ed]? What if we could step back from the fear, blame, and shame? We just might be able to create more room for compassion, encouragement, curiosity and understanding.

There are intelligent, informed, and well-intentioned people on both sides of the debate. Let’s use our energy and resources to heal, rather than to waste it arguing.

The lasting solution will be found when we all find a way to work together.

The best thing we can do to support global health is to make the best choices we can for ourselves and find a way to peacefully co-exist with those who think or choose differently.

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