Tri-County Health Care has done an excellent job vaccinating a large percentage of the community. However, the pace is slowing down. There are fewer appointment calls each day. Our vaccine clinics have dozens of openings, and I continue to see a steady stream of fear and misinformation. Both of these things are very concerning to me.

We spent nearly a year in quarantine, buying time for a vaccine to be developed which would allow us to return to a normal life. Now we have the vaccine, but we’ve run into the iron wall of hesitancy.

Is the vaccine safe? I hear that question all the time. Yes, the vaccines are very safe and I would like to address some common concerns I’ve heard in our community.

Blood clots

Blood clots can be very dangerous and lead to a range of medical complications. Recently the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was placed on a brief pause after some individuals suffered from issues related to blood clots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the cases and reinforced their support for the vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is now being distributed again.

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I want everyone to know that this vaccine has an incredibly low chance of causing a blood clot. Right now, the world is hyper-focused on the vaccine and any potential side effects. Keep in mind that vaccination sites are vaccinating millions of people every week.

There is a less than 1 in 1,000,000 chance a blood clot will form after getting the J & J vaccine. By contrast, you have a 16.5% chance of getting a blood clot after contracting COVID-19. The math is pretty simple.

With the COVID-19 vaccine, the benefits far outweigh the risks. It’s also worth noting that several other medications, including birth control (0.5-0.12%), also pose a higher risk for blood clots. Reports indicate that females are most likely to suffer from blood clots after receiving this type of vaccine. However, with these extremely low odds, I would not hesitate to recommend the vaccine to any of my female friends and family, given the risks of COVID-19.

Variants

Variants are a rising concern in our community. I know it might be easier to ignore the likelihood of a resurgence of COVID, but it could happen if we don’t start taking vaccination more seriously. We are seeing reinfection that can often be worse than the previous illness. We are noticing young and healthy patients have more severe symptoms during the second infection. These after-effects of infection can also last longer.

The more time we allow this disease to run rampant in our community, the more opportunities it has to mutate, making our current vaccination efforts all for nothing. The entire pandemic could start again with another two years of closed businesses and canceled extracurriculars.

Exodus

I work with some of the best medical staff around. I’m very fortunate to have so many gifted individuals stand with me during a pandemic that has taken so many lives. It frustrates me to see so many rejecting sound science and the advice of their own healthcare providers. These are the same people that have been risking their lives during the pandemic to treat others. I fear that healthcare personnel around the country are losing faith in humanity. So many have rejected a vaccine that could lift us out of this public health nightmare. I’m afraid we will see a mass exodus of healthcare workers leaving rural communities when this is over.

Hysteria and hesitancy

I see two main problems with our current situation. People are spending too much time entertaining conspiracy theories and exhibiting a general lack of empathy and trust. Get your information from trusted sources, not the comment section of a Facebook post. The latter is a far more difficult problem to tackle.

The best thing you can do for our society is to realize that each one of us plays a vital role in our collective health. Even if COVID-19 is a low risk for you, it may not be for the others you crossed paths with at the supermarket after you refused to wear a mask.

Dr. Ben Hess is the Chief Medical Officer at Tri-County Health Care.