Why I will be getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Dr Michael Ashton

By Dr Michael Ashton, BHB Chief of Medicine and Infectious Diseases Specialist

Friday 8 January 2021: One of the ICU nurses approached me again as I was coming out of a patient room and asked when the vaccine for COVID-19 will become available in Bermuda. As before, we both keenly agreed that we will gratefully receive it when it finally arrives. We have only to look across the ICU to see the devastating potential of COVID-19 as a disease.

As an Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine specialist practicing in Bermuda for the last 10 years, I am regularly reminded how patients can succumb to disease. Even initial appearances of health and stability can sometimes betray the fragile balance in which we all exist. The COVID-19 pandemic rages on around the world, now with increasing efficiency, and we are far from herd immunity. Without an effective vaccine, there would be no end to the pandemic in sight; and our most vulnerable friends and family would have no hope of a normal life.

And yet after much determination and rigorous testing, there are now several approved vaccines (including mRNA vaccines) with extensive data published from multiple peer-reviewed and credible sources to establish safety and effectiveness. Remarkably, and unlike many other vaccines, COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness has been observed in most all populations – irrespective of age, race or health status.

Bermuda has struggled and made great sacrifices. We have only have to look to our neighbors to recognize the great risks that we have faced. The COVID-19 vaccines now represent a safe and responsible path back to normality. To start, there will be a limited supply of vaccine, so it makes sense for the vaccine to be first available to front-line and vulnerable people. No-one will ever be forced to take this vaccine, but having seen the consequences of this disease and having followed the vaccine development, I wholeheartedly encourage those eligible to receive the vaccine when it becomes available.

Ultimately, whether you take the vaccine is a personal decision – but with implications for those around you. As you weigh the risks and benefits, ensure that your sources of information are reliable, credible, and preferably from peer-reviewed publications. Consider each contingency and have a plan. For the vast majority of people, the vaccine benefits far outweigh the risks. But if you choose not to take the vaccine, are you prepared to continue to be at risk for contracting COVID-19? What will you do instead to protect yourself and those around you? And if you were to get sick, who will take care of you?

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