Dr. David Pearce is a hospitalist at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
I’ve seen firsthand the damage COVID-19 can do.
It can render the healthiest young men and women breathless, weak and sometimes permanently disabled. I’ve witnessed COVID-19 carve half a family away from the face of the earth in a week’s time.
I have repeatedly treated patients with this virus in the ICU who died despite our best efforts.
I've also been successful in helping other infected patients recover to the point I was able to discharge them home. This would have represented a win, except that it was just in time to make it to their spouse’s funeral, who had unfortunately succumbed to COVID-19.
I have held a father’s hands as he wept at the news that his young adult daughter had died from COVID-19, while he narrowly survived. “It should have been me,” he said.
I don’t always know what to say when people ask why this is happening. I hear some people say ‘I thought I did everything right and I still got this virus.’ There is a way out of this nightmare: The COVID-19 vaccine.
I know some people think the vaccine might make them sick, even give them COVID-19. It won’t. It can’t. Yes, a sore arm or a low-grade fever for a day or less is possible. But it’s a small price to pay for getting out of this nightmare.
You don’t want to contract the COVID-19 virus. The wounds inflicted by this pandemic will run deep. Aftershocks are already occurring. There is a growing cohort of COVID-19 long-haulers, patients of all ages who have still not fully recovered from their infection. This means there will likely be new, long-lasting, chronic illnesses in the individuals who seem to suffer most from COVID-19.
I've cared for other physicians who have been otherwise healthy and contracted COVID-19. Even they ask: “Am I going to get over this?” The short answer is that I'm not sure.
I have colleagues in the outpatient world who are seeing COVID-19 patients of all ages, even 30-somethings, coming back a month later still using supplemental oxygen that stays by their side day after day. Again, these are people who were perfectly healthy before getting infected.
I'm by no means an immunologist, but I’ve studied the subject a lot — it’s a bit of a side interest. Vaccines work. The vast majority of Americans take them, and make sure their children take them, too. The COVID-19 vaccines have already gone through robust safety testing. What that means is that science has proven that getting the vaccine is safe. Getting the virus is absolutely not—and its effects on an individual are still completely unpredictable.
It's exhausting and discouraging to think about the prospects of what we're going to face—the additional people that will die—if people don't take the vaccine. We're looking at the opportunity here to finally get this under control.
Please, get your COVID-19 vaccination. I’m getting mine as soon as I can.
*as told to Cliff Mehrtens