Vaccination will save your life

Vaccination will save your life

When was the last time you crossed a busy highway without looking both ways before you stepped into traffic? You might be lucky enough to make it across without a scratch, or all cars might come to a screeching halt to let you pass. However, there is a good chance you would be hit, injured, or killed. The same holds true with the Covid-19 pandemic. The only difference is that with the new, doubly contagious, more dangerous delta variant, sometime in the next two years you are almost guaranteed to be hit with this potentially fatal infection. You will get sick. If you are not vaccinated, you are likely to end up in a critical-care bed in the hospital – if one is available – or dead. If you are vaccinated, you might not get sick at all.

Or you may experience cold or flu-like symptoms and spend a few feverish, aching days in bed. Ask yourself, can you afford the medical bills for a month’s hospital stay? Are you ready to give up everything you own or have worked for your whole life – and your family – forever, to reside in a box six feet under? Or would you rather get a free life-saving vaccine jab? Now is the time to decide. Once you get sick six days, weeks, or months from now, it is too late. Get the jab now!

Recently a popular, conservative radio talk-show host in America died of Covid-19. He had told his radio audience they really did not need to get vaccinated. He claimed even if he got infected, he would have only one chance in a hundred of dying. The immune system God gave him was strong, so he had no fear. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Maybe he forgot the chapter in the Bible where God sent the deadly plagues unto Egypt. Killer epidemics have haunted humanity every century from the beginning of civilization. Covid is just the latest. As the song from 1968 by Jerry Butler suggests, “only the strong survive”.

Today, only those smart enough to get vaccinated will survive unscathed. If you are not vaccinated, be sure your burial plan is paid, and last will and testament notarized. You are likely to need both sooner than expected. For people a bit more lucky, 50% of those hospitalized with Covid will suffer long-term health consequences with long-Covid. Almost everyone with serious Covid suffers some degree of long-term loss of lung capacity.

Facts are facts. However, legions of people on social media are trying to confuse others with distorted information. Do not be fooled by scammers, fools or fanatics. Believing them will kill you. Some misinformation is crazy, like when the President of Brazil claimed a vaccine would turn a person into a crocodile – or a chimpanzee. President Bolsonaro caught Covid-19 after he refused to wear a mask or get vaccinated. Despite the best medical attention, he ended up hick-upping uncontrollably for ten days. Not getting vaccinated turned him into a horse’s ass. The president of Tanzania died after he refused to get vaccinated or wear a mask. The virus does not discriminate.

Too many have died already. In one week in July 2021 two people I really liked passed away. One was the car guard at the parking lot where I work. Bongani was almost 50. I shared many lunches with him, and he always waved as I entered and left the lot. I was shocked when he died. That same week one of my favourite pharmacists Danny passed away. When I learned he was 84 years old I was surprised because he was lively and fit and sharp as a tack. Somehow, he had believed the antivax junk on social media and failed to get vaccinated. He was a highly intelligent, successful man. The virus took him in two weeks. But it was really the lies and distortions on social media that killed him. He did not have to die. Neither did the American radio host or the Tanzanian president. All were victims of anti-scientific propaganda. Do not let this happen to you.

Every mother knows that babies need their shots. In past centuries millions of children died annually of childhood diseases. Now, because of almost universal vaccination, few do. Maybe that is why women are more inclined to get vaccinated than men. Is it possible grown men fear a vaccine shot – the same thing they received when they were babies? Hard to believe. Now is the time to man-up to protect your own life, your family, friends, and co-workers. Only the smart survive. The strong, strongheaded, and confused but unvaccinated may not. Which side will you be on? Pick fast. When Covid comes calling – which it will soon – it will be too late. Get vaccinated today. For some people, next month will not be soon enough. What would your family do without you?

Vaccinations have saved lives for over 200 years. Chinese gave the first inoculations about 1500, for smallpox. In 1778 Englishman Edward Jenner perfected the system of using scabs from cowpox survivors to inoculate against killer smallpox. That inspired the word vaccine, from vacca, the Latin word for cow. Louie Pasteur of France developed vaccines against cholera in 1897, and anthrax in 1904. Today there are vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, rubella, rabies, measles, mumps, chickenpox, polio, hepatitis-B, influenza, and numerous other infectious and contagious diseases.

They save tens of millions of lives each year including many children who in the past often died before age five. Most nations require children to be vaccinated before they start school because the classroom is a convenient place for kids to share germs and take them home, including Covid. Many childhood injections combine up to three vaccines into one shot, making them more convenient. Almost every person alive today has received one or more vaccination against disease. While many men may have forgotten their childhood shots, mothers know better.

No vaccine is ever 100% effective in preventing infection. What is the Covid vaccine designed to protect against? Vaccines protect against serious disease – the kind that sends one to the hospital or the grave.
A vaccine imitates viral infection and triggers immune system B-cells to produce millions of virus-suppressing antibodies. When an infection eventually occurs, those antibodies attach to viruses and reduce their chance of infecting cells. A vaccine also primes other parts of the immune system to resist if that specific germ enters the body.

Vaccination never completely prevents an infection. Instead, it helps prevent an initial infection from taking hold once it does enter the body. Ideally it clears the infection so quickly one never realizes they were infected. Most Covid vaccines were initially 88% to 95% effective in stopping serious infections and even more effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. That was until the delta variant appeared in many countries in May 2021 and quickly became the predominant strain worldwide.

The delta variant is twice as contagious as the original strain. Scientists recently determined delta is twice as likely to send a person to the hospital as well. Most likely that means it is twice as deadly too. That should give people incentive to get vaccinated immediately. With delta, most vaccine’s effectiveness preventing symptomatic infection has fallen to the 65% to 72% range. However, their ability to prevent hospitalization and death remains high, in the 97% and 99.5% range respectively.

After vaccination it takes one month for full potency to develop. Likewise with the second shot. Protection is not instant. However, after six to eight months, antibody protection begins to wane even though other aspects of immunity may remain robust. Nevertheless, solid protection remains against severe disease.

In the initial wave of Covid-19 it was obvious younger people were not as affected as the elderly or those with comorbidities like obesity, cancer, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. They took the brunt of the first wave. Delta changed all that. Now younger, healthier, middle-aged, and even school students are getting seriously ill and dying. Do not fool yourself thinking you have a strong immune system. That does not fool this virus.

Like HIV and Ebola, the SARS-2 virus directly attacks the immune system and steals the fuel the immune system needs – selenium. Then in two to four weeks it does what HIV takes eight to ten years to do – causes immune deficiency, a cytokine storm, sepsis, organ failure and death. More contagious and more deadly, delta appears to kill faster too. While there is no vaccine for HIV – ARVs do nicely instead – there are no highly effective ARVs for Covid-19. Vaccination is the only real solution.

While fully vaccinated people can still contract breakthrough infections and infect others, in almost all cases their symptoms will not last as long and will be milder – like an allergy, cold, or at worst a bedridden flu. That mild infection also increases their future immunity against Covid.
Unfortunately, vaccination usually comes with initial, short-term side effects: a few hours, or a day or two of fatigue and cold or flu-like symptoms. Some feel nothing. Some may be laid up in bed for a day. That is a meagre price to pay for survival once the viral storm eventually hits when least expected – which it will. Vaccination is a virus survival insurance policy, on the cheap.

Can pregnant women get vaccinated? Yes, research shows it is perfectly safe for both the mother and foetus. In fact, it is extremely important to get the shot because studies have shown pregnant women infected by SARS-2 have some of the highest mortality rates. It is wise to delay pregnancy. Otherwise, it is essential to get the shot as soon as possible if one is planning to get pregnant or is currently pregnant.

Which vaccine is preferable? Probably the first one that is available. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are all highly rated and the AstraZeneca is well regarded too. The Russian Sputnik-V vaccine is evidently highly effective, although they cut corners and its phase-three safety testing was rushed and incomplete. Unfortunately, the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines have not proved very effective. Given a choice, they should be avoided in favour of better shots.

People want to know if they can mix different vaccine brands for the first and second shots. This is possible and safe to do, but it is best to follow your doctor’s advice. Although regulators suggest it is best to take the same brand for both doses, some experts suggest that because different types of vaccines work in slightly different ways, taking two different types of vaccine might stimulate slightly different aspects of the immune response. However, if you have taken Chinese vaccines as either first or second dose, it is important to get an additional jab of one of the more effective brands.

Originally scientists thought herd immunity would be reached once 70% of people either had been vaccinated or had recovered from infection. Now with the more contagious delta variant, they estimate herd immunity will be reached only once 90% of people are. Those already recovered from Covid may not be protected from the newer variants. Surprisingly, some report that people that have been infected are more likely to be reinfected. However, for those who have had Covid, just one vaccine jab provides as much protection as two shots provide most people.

Do not bet your entire life on anti-science propaganda. You will lose. Will a vaccination turn you into a crocodile or chimpanzee? Look in the mirror and see what you see. Look again in two years. If you do not get vaccinated, in two years when you look, you might not see anything at all.

Howard Armstead is an AIDS, Ebola, and Covid-19 researcher. He is Director of the Selenium Education and Research Centre (SERC) in Johannesburg.

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