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Dr. Ketan Amin

Dr. Ketan Amin apologized for being late to the phone interview for this story about getting skeptical men to get the two COVID-19 vaccines and booster if they are eligible. “I was trying to convince my last three patients to be vaccinated,” he said.

All three were men, which isn’t unusual. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in June that 9.9 million more women had been vaccinated in the United States than men. Forty-two states that collect gender data report that a greater share of women are rolling up their sleeves than men, including in North Carolina.

The gender gap makes sense on several levels. Health care workers, teachers and those who care for children and the elderly were among the first to be eligible for the vaccine. More women than men hold those jobs. Women generally see a doctor more often than men. Women also generally handle medical care for their family. When your 6-year-old gets an earache, who calls the pediatrician? Studies also show that women are more health-conscious than men. Put a beer and a banana on the kitchen counter and see who grabs for what.

But as an internist with Novant Health Presbyterian Internal Medicine, Amin cares for men who are vaccine-hesitant for other reasons.

Macho, macho man

Amin recalls the man who told him, “Hey doc, I’m fine. I don’t need it. I play golf with my buddies. We wear a mask. We’ll be fine. I don’t ever get a cold. I don’t even get a flu vaccine. I can handle it.”Amin reminded him that the virus strikes the fit and fragile alike. No one is immune. Even tough guys. To date in the United States, there have been 45 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 700,000 deaths.

A question from the bedroom

No, there there is no evidence that the vaccine causes erectile dysfunction or fertility problems, Amin tells male patients who ask. COVID-19, however, can cause both. This from the CDC: “Professional societies for male reproduction recommend that men who want to have babies in the future be offered COVID-19 vaccination.” Want to know more? The Urology Times is on the story.


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Everything is ’politics’

What writer Thomas Mann said decades ago seems true today. One national poll this past summer found that 86% of Democrats had received at least one vaccine compared to 52% of Republicans. Women are more likely than men to say they lean Democratic while more men identify as Republican or independent. The split often revolves around freedom of choice. Amin reminds patients that all of us are at risk from the virus, red and blue alike.

My neighbor got the shot and …

The vaccine is not foolproof, Dr. Amin noted. You can still contract the virus, though so-called “breakthrough” cases are a small fraction of overall reported cases. And often, as in the case of Gen. Colin Powell, people with a breakthrough case had underlying health issues. But the vaccine, even if it doesn’t prevent everyone from getting the virus, often lessens its severity. Amin had 10 patients test positive for COVID-19 after getting the vaccine. None were hospitalized. All recovered. By comparison, he said, 95% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 had not been vaccinated. Nearly all deaths today occur among unvaccinated cases.

I was Googling and …

Amin, who specializes in internal medicine, has been with Novant Health for six years. He describes internists as “doctors for adults,” treating a wide array of ailments. COVID-19 has added another duty to his job description. He doesn’t debate his patients about the vaccine. He doesn’t scold. Rather, his strategy is to calm fears, dispel falsehoods and gently lead each patient to make the right decision.

“I’m trying to keep you from getting sick,” he tells them. “You want to be safe for your family and friends, those people who are important to you and people who are at risk.”

And those three patients he was trying to convince? Two agreed to get the shot. The third had COVID, but was still planning to pass.