By Polly Bednash and Claire Lindberg
The past year and a half has presented this nation with a series of losses and tragedies brought about by the COVID-19 virus and its subsequent creation of an international pandemic. We are two nurses who have watched in horror as the pandemic turned all our lives upside-down. Along with everyone else, we have sheltered, cut contact with friends and family and harbored the worry that loved ones, or ourselves, might suffer the virus’s serious impact on our health. As of today, COVID-19 has sickened over 47 million people in the U.S. alone and there have been almost 762,000 deaths. In Vermont, over 45,000 people have been sickened by COVID and 394 Vermonters have died (data from NY Times and Kaiser Family Foundation). In addition, COVID virus has long-term lasting and serious health impact including dementia, lung and other health problems. In some children, the virus has caused multi-system health problems and children now represent 25% of those with COVID.
As COVID continued to sicken and kill in our country and the world, we each looked on with hope as vaccines were developed that provide the chance for returning our lives back to some sense of normality. Unfortunately, false narratives about the vaccines, produced by Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson, have understandably created uncertainty about how safe they are. Uncertainty and fear about COVID vaccines allows the virus to mutate and spread, prolonging this deadly pandemic,
COVID vaccines, which have been thoroughly, rigorously and widely tested for safety and effectiveness have been shown to be our best bet, along with a few other proven public health measures, in stemming this tide of injury and death. Around the globe, over three billion individuals have received a COVID vaccination, and in the U.S., almost half a billion individuals have received one. COVID vaccines have saved thousands of lives and there is no evidence that they have significantly increased death and disability. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks vaccine deaths and adverse effects among Americans. Minor side effects are common, including an achy arm, feeling tired for a day or other mild side effects. Serious adverse effects are rare. The CDC has investigated deaths occurring after COVID vaccination, and found that between December 14, 2020, and November 8, 2021, over 42 million COVID vaccinations were given and only five deaths could be causally attributed to a COVID vaccine. Every premature death is, of course, tragic but five deaths from any COVID vaccine is a number that pales in comparison to 763,000 deaths from the disease itself.
As nurses with long careers, we have seen firsthand how the growing array of vaccines protect us from life-changing and debilitating illnesses such as polio, hepatitis, shingles and others. In the 1950s, polio, like COVID, paralyzed this country as it caused debilitating disease and death. Because the nation came together to fight polio through vaccination and other public measures, this disease is now nonexistent in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world. The COVID vaccine is available to us now to help conquer an equally serious disease. Like the nation did with polio, we can end the COVID pandemic with vaccines and other good public health practices such as hand washing, wearing masks or avoiding crowds. We urge those of you who are vaccinated to share with your family and friends the importance of these measures to protect yourselves, your families and your community. We also urge those who have questions or hesitations about vaccination to seek out expert and correct information on the vaccines. Our Vermont primary care providers and registered nurses, including the nurses in our public schools, are highly informed about the COVID vaccine and about immunizations in general. Vermont was leading the nation in controlling the virus. Let’s take control again.
Bednash and Lindberg are both PhD, RNs who live in Waitsfield.