As a pediatrician who has been taking care of children and families for 40 years, I have been able to witness advances in medicine that improve the lives of individuals and strengthen our communities. Of all the ways I have helped my patients, I consider providing immunizations as my single most important and impactful service, as part of a foundation for health and well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed us socially, economically, politically, and interpersonally and it is with great relief and expectation that we now have vaccines that can turn the tide and permit us to resume our lives with the freedoms and opportunities we so value.
The diseases we control through vaccination are devastating and world-wide. Polio, smallpox, major types of meningitis, measles, and many other communicable infections have caused more death, pain, and suffering that most of us know or understand. COVID-19 is another stealth killer that has devastated us through its ability to kill and create chronic illness in those who survive it. The virus has an uncanny ability to infect some without creating illness, leading to asymptomatic spread that has multiplied its impact in ways we could never have imagined or expected. It has been the most destructive force against humankind most of us will ever see, with no regard for race, creed, religion, or geography.
Before vaccines, the only ways we could try to control the spread of infection have been through quarantines and careful hygiene. Wearing a mask and social distancing is worth it, even if it reduces death and disease by a small degree. We owe this precaution to each other. Getting vaccinated is a bigger commitment but is the only way to liberate us from this scourge.
There are some who are vaccination hesitant, worried about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine or some undiscovered side effect. I can only reassure them that the science and experience has been incredibly positive and reassuring. Millions have received it and the incidence of serious side effects is remarkably small. There are some who brill against the idea that they should be vaccinated and are of the mind set to refuse it if they suspect it is a challenge to their personal autonomy or constitutional freedom of choice. They may view it as a political statement. Vaccination is not a conspiracy or individual subjugation; it is a humanitarian solution.
There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19, its origins, contagiousness, severity of illness, diagnosis, treatments, and the vaccine. It can be hard to understand or know unless you have seen it first-hand. Those of us who care for infected patients and their families know its reality.
We need to emerge from the socio-economic disaster the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed upon us along with its toll of human suffering. As a physician who has witnessed the positive impact of immunizations, I implore all to get immunized. It is the only way we can do it.
Russell Libby, MD