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To the Editor:
I’m a critical care physician (there’s been a lot about ventilators on the news in the last year, this is what I do) working in the Twin Cities metro region, originally from the Elk Mound/Colfax area. I read with dismay an opinion in the September 15th Colfax Messenger which purported to examine scientific and medical concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccines. I don’t know the author but have had occasion in the last year to try to understand the thought processes that lead someone who is probably a basically good person to promote misinformation that hurts people.
We’ve had a rough year and half in the ICU. At first we were flooded with elderly patients, and politicians on the national stage asked us to accept that they were expendable. Then came racial minorities and poor people. The experience of caring for them belies the narrative of their lack of value: it hurts badly when they die despite all efforts, and it’s salt in the cut to listen to their family members sob on the phone. There were just so many sick people at peak Covid, we did this over and over into the spring. We thought things would get better with vaccinations, and in many ways they did.
The new challenge at work is that our COVID-19 patients are almost entirely unvaccinated by choice, and we watch their families go through the process of grief, fear, and unfortunately sometimes loss because they never thought the virus would come for their loved one. At this point I’ve taken care of a few fully vaccinated people, but to a person they had significant medical comorbidities like cancer and were exposed by someone close to them who was unvaccinated. Our unit is often full, taking patients with COVID-19 and other illnesses from all over the country including western Wisconsin due to lack of local resources.
I am not going to address the above-mentioned author’s specific attempts to interpret the science of vaccines. As a physician with a background in molecular biology and immunology, I feel that she has been led astray by weak science reporting and people who are advertising a product or service. And for thoroughness, rest assured I have reviewed many of the sites she referenced because my patients’ families have requested that I do so.
I have taken care of zero patients who were critically ill due to a complication of COVID-19 vaccination. All of my physician colleagues are vaccinated, and none of us have experienced a significant complication of vaccination because such complications are very rare. The science is easy to do: millions of people have had COVID-19, and it is sometimes very bad. Millions of people have had a COVID-19 vaccine, and it is far less bad. There is a great deal of research in the public domain to support this assertion; go to the PubMed website and start with PMID 33289900 and 34365034 for a sample.
Please know that COVID-19 vaccination prevents death and misery. It is too late for it to help by the time you or your loved one is sick, and I promise that none of our therapeutics work nearly as well as an ounce of prevention (I so badly wish they did). Personally, I got vaccinated not only because I was pregnant when it was offered and I knew I was in a high risk group, but also because I couldn’t live with myself if I gave the virus to my elderly parents or my newborn. I’m asking you, if you aren’t vaccinated, to consider it not just for yourself and the people around you, but also for me, so that we never meet in the context of my job.
Jess Boland, MD