SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — As the national push toward COVID-19 vaccination continues, the rate those getting the shot has slowed. While this can be attributed in part to large portions of the population already being vaccinated, another factor is lingering vaccine hesitancy which is held up by a mix of concern, questions, misconceptions and misinformation.
In an attempt to shed light on the issue, KELOLAND News spoke with Sanford’s Dr. Jeremy Cauwels and Avera’s Dr. David Basel about the reasons some have given for delaying or refusing vaccination.
‘I’ve already gotten COVID. I don’t need to get the vaccine too.’
Cauwels: “The term that we use in medicine to describe this is what we call hybrid-immunity — what we see is folks that have seen the virus for some reason, like a previous immunization or a previous infection, seem to develop a much more robust immune response if they’re challenged again by a vaccine. Those people actually develop a better immune response probably even than people who have gotten two shots, if they get a shot after they’ve been infected with COVID — it probably can turn you into one of the best protected people in the country right now.”
Basel: “Being infected before certainly gives you some antibodies and some protection against COVID, but a couple things to keep in mind though; most of us that got infected before were not infected with the Delta variant that we’re seeing now. It is a considerably different virus than what we saw the last time. Also, many of us were infected quite a long time ago, so those antibody levels are starting to fall off over time.”
While the data on how long immunity lasts is still being gathered, the consensus is that immunity is not permanent.
“In some people, it starts to fall off around 6-months,” said Cauwels. Basel said that what they believe at this time is that those with super immunity will have the highest and longest lasting immunity. “It’s still important to get vaccinated even if you’ve been infected before,” he said.
‘Thousands of people in America have died from the COVID-19 vaccines.’
This misconception stems from misinterpretation of data from the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). According to the CDC, “VAERS received 7,653 reports of death (0.0020%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.”
The CDC explains that the FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, ‘even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause.’ The important thing to understand here, health officials say, is that correlation does not equal causation.
Cauwels: “Understand that any time somebody dies after getting the vaccine, as physicians we have to report that to VAERS. That means that if I got the vaccine last week and I walked down and got hit by a car, they have to report that as a death. Now that doesn’t mean the vaccine killed me. It was most likely the car, but it means that they’re going to investigate that to make sure.”
Basel: “What the VAERS system does is it tries to investigate any known cases of people that have died that have been recently vaccinated, and so a large number of those are people that were in car accidents, or were shot or [died by] suicide — if they had any time period that they were vaccinated, they look at those to make sure it wasn’t in some fashion related. Just because 7,000 people have died, probably only 10 of those were truly related to the vaccine.”
‘Vaccinated people can still catch and spread the virus, so there’s no point in getting the vaccine.’
Basel: “The number one thing that vaccination does is it prevents severe disease. It’s very effective at keeping you out of the hospital and keeping you from dying, and we’re seeing that in our hospitalization numbers. The vast majority of the people that are being hospitalized are those unvaccinated people — even though it doesn’t totally prevent illness, it makes it less severe in most cases.”
Cauwels: “I think it’s important to recognize that while people aren’t wrapped in bubble-wrap because of a vaccine — they’re not impervious to it — they don’t spread the virus in the same way [if they’ve been vaccinated]. They may still have virus in their nose — we think it’s actually in their nose for much less time after vaccination. Current data would indicate 3-days versus 10-days if you haven’t been vaccinated. Just on math, that’s 70% more time infective than you would be if you’d been vaccinated.”
‘The vaccine is too new/it hasn’t been tested enough.’
Cauwels: “What I can tell you right now is this vaccine is extraordinarily safe. We have tested it and given it now to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and the side-effects are remarkably low.”
Basel: “I think the vaccines we have are probably the single most well-studied drugs that we’ve had come out during my 20+ year career, and so if there were adverse effects, we would’ve found them at this time. I think that’s evidenced by now. Pfizer has gone from being underneath an emergency use to being fully approved, showing that we’ve got as much data as on any drug that we release. It’s safe. It’s proven that at this point.”