Q&A with Dr. Meg about the new COVID-19 vaccine.

In this article, I offer my response to some of the most frequently asked questions about the new COVID-19 vaccine that I’ve received from my readers.
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
January 22, 2021
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6
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To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Dr. Meg answers all of your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the COVID-19 vaccine has begun distribution in the U.S., I’ve received numerous questions from readers and parents about its safety and efficacy. I’ve compiled some of these questions as well as my responses. I hope these give you peace of mind and empower you to make the best decision possible for your health and your family’s health.

Q: These vaccines were created quickly. How do we know the developers didn’t cut corners in making them?

When it comes to immunizing massive amounts of people quickly, we have never been in any situation like this before. The COVID-19 vaccine was created quickly, and at this point, there is a lot we don’t know about long-term effects. However, scientists who work on these vaccines are highly skilled and knowledgeable and follow the strictest guidelines.

Remember, too, that the vaccines have to go through many trials and pass many tests before they are allowed to be administered to the public. The best knowledge we have at this point is that corners were not cut.


Q: As a Catholic, how do I navigate whether or not to get the vaccine due to issues about aborted baby cells used in the vaccine? 

I encourage you to go to visit https://www.immunize.org/talking-about-vaccines/furton.pdf and https://mycatholicdoctor.com/our-services/vaccines

These sites give more extensive answers than I can here, but citing one of the Vatican’s official statements on the issue, “the moral responsibility to vaccinate is reiterated in order to avoid serious health risks for children and the general population.”

 

Q: Can you speak to why you believe vaccinations are necessary? As a new mom, I want to make the best decision for my children. Unfortunately, with everything going on, I don’t know what to believe or whom to trust.

There is so much information about vaccines on the internet, particularly since the autism scare with the MMR vaccine appeared. The truth is, vaccinations are necessary because the illnesses they prevent are life-threatening.

Fortunately, we rarely see issues like epiglottitis from HIB (Haemophilus influenzae type b)

anymore. I saw this not so infrequently in the 1980s. It was terrifying because epiglottis could close off a patient’s airway in minutes. Polio has been eradicated, but I worked with a pediatric resident from China who had it and he couldn’t use his lower legs. I have seen babies with pertussis (whooping cough) gasp for air. I’ve seen tetanus. I’ve seen brain infections from chickenpox.

The bottom line is this: We have the luxury of questioning the necessity of these vaccines because we rarely see the illnesses they protect against because the vaccines have worked so well.

In 32 years, I have never seen a child die from a vaccine, but I have seen many die or have life-threatening illnesses from the infections they prevent. I never hesitate to vaccinate a child because I have seen what happens when kids aren’t vaccinated.

Q: Why is the vaccine preferential to herd immunity through exposure? 

Herd immunity is ideal, but the only way we can get there now and rapidly is through vaccination. Herd immunity gained from infection alone can take years and would result in many deaths. When it is acquired through vaccinations, it is quicker and results in far fewer, if any, deaths.


Q: Should I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant? 

We don’t have any data on the effects of the vaccine on babies, and we don’t have data on long-term effects of the vaccine. The only thing you can do is have a one-on-one conversation with your OBGYN and make the best decision you can.


Q: There is information out there saying the vaccine may cause infertility. There is also a claim that the vaccines were not tested on any pregnant women. Do you have insight into this claim?  

I’m going to be very honest here. These claims are false and ridiculous. Be very careful where you get your information. Just because it is on the internet or someone sends it to you does NOT mean it’s true.

Pick one medically sound place to get your information and forget the rest. This is an excellent resource from the FDA about the vaccine: https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download.

The CDC also has a reliable site devoted to adverse effects and reactions to vaccines. You can visit it here: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/ensuringsafety/monitoring/vaers/index.html


Q: Do children have to get the vaccine?

Not at this point. Right now, only those who are age 16 and older can get the vaccine. We aren’t sure if children will need to get it before they turn 16 in the future. The good news is that by the time we make a decision about vaccinating kids, the vaccine will have been around for a while, and we will know if it is posing any problems.


Q: Do I really need to get the vaccine? I don’t like feeling pressured into anything.

You should never feel pressured and you can always refuse vaccination for personal or religious beliefs. I encourage you to visit the site I listed above: https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download.

Read about the vaccine, talk to your doctor about it, and weigh your own risks. Getting the vaccine should be a personal decision but remember, if you are in contact with a high-risk person like a sick or elderly family member, you have a responsibility to consider their health as well.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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