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Dr. Zorba Paster: The COVID vaccine works and is making a big difference

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COVID-19 vaccine

Nursing student Tristan Ruch administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to graduate student Luis Torres.

Dear Doc: I’ve heard getting vaccinated makes you more susceptible to COVID, that’s why so many vaccinated people are coming down with it. Is that true? — R.J., from Stoughton

Zorba Paster mug

Dr. Zorba Paster

Dear R.J.: That is not true. It is an example of the fake stuff you find on the internet all the time.

Let’s do some math here. Two out of three people in the U.S. are now fully vaccinated, with a bunch more just starting up. That means a whole slew of people who had their shots just might get COVID.

The vaccine prevents many from coming down with COVID to start with, but this virus is a pesky bugger. It seems to get through that immunity wall set up by the vaccines. But the vaccines prevent hospitalizations, which frankly is the bottom line.

You are more than 10 times more likely to end up in the hospital if you get COVID and are an anti-vaxxer. Perspective here: This is like the difference between having a $10 bill your wallet and having a $100 bill. It’s a big deal.

My spin: Keep getting vaccinated and boosted. Right now, the CDC says anyone over 50 can get a booster or anyone who is “moderately or severely immunocompromised,” and they don’t define that. In my mind, it means anyone with any medical problem that might compromise their immunity.

Hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, previous history of cancer — I could go on and on. I think it’s anyone with any medical problem that has been or can be serious. That’s my interpretation.

What the feds should do is open up the latest booster to everybody who wants it. With the fall coming up, and more people heading inside as the weather gets cooler, getting that booster is critical.

Now, one more thing. COVID, just like influenza, is going to be with us forever. It’s nastier than other viruses for sure, but influenza often kills 30,000 to 70,000 people a year, the respiratory syncytial virus, RSV, kills 15,000 adults a year, and so on and so forth.

We have to live with COVID, which still means, two years later, that when you get immunized you’re protecting not just yourself but your family, your friends, your parents, your children, your neighborhood — everybody.

If we had never gotten immunized for polio, it would still be around. And I remember one of my neighborhood kids, Gilly, who died from it — something that stuck in my mind as a fourth-grader.

Young children who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, and there are tons of them, will undoubtedly remember this and be affected by this loss for a long time. Get your shots.

Now, on to a study from the British Medical Journal that fits into this. New research showed that COVID immunization averted infections in health care workers.

Researchers looked at the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines in more than 300,000 health care and social workers in the U.K. They found that both vaccines protected workers enough so that fewer workers had to take time away from work because of infection, therefore helping keep health care workers on the job.

It’s another example that vaccination works.

For those who are hesitant about the technology of COVID vaccines, the new Novavax vaccine will soon be available. It uses older vaccine technology — not mRNA, but the old-fashioned way.

Developers of this vaccine took the spike protein (made from moth cells) and booster adjuvant (made from tree bark), which the body then takes in, makes antibodies, and zaps the virus. So unlike mRNA vaccines, which cause the body to make the spike proteins, the Novavax vaccine sends the protein in directly to the body and the body responds by making antibodies.

My spin: This is another arrow in our quiver to zap our enemy, COVID. Stay well. Get immunized.

This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.


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