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COVID 19 Vaccine Memo from Dr. Robert Wenger, Prosser Memorial Health ED Provider and Emergency Department Medical Director

December 28, 2020

As an Emergency Department Physician and a member of the Prosser Memorial Health team, I want to share my thoughts with you on the COVID 19 vaccine. I am choosing to receive the vaccination for the health and wellness of myself and my family, so that I can travel in 2021, so that my daughter can see her grandparents for the first time since she was a week old, so that I can continue to care for the community of Prosser without needing to miss work due to illness, and to honor the lives of the patients who I cared for that died from COVID (including the two who refused to be intubated to allow a ventilator and ICU bed to go to someone else).


Here are my thoughts on the vaccines:


The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both use mRNA technology. mRNA from the vaccine enters the cells which then makes a protein that allows your body to recognize and fight COVID. mRNA from the vaccine does not alter your DNA and does not inject live virus into your body. Although this is the first time mRNA technology has successfully been used in a vaccine, the technology has been studied and developed over the past 20 years.


The vaccines are the most studied treatment option that we have for COVID. Pfizer (43,252 patients) plus Moderna (30,338 patients) means that the mRNA technology had been studied in over 70,000 people before the vaccines were approved. This is compared to Remdesivir that had 1,000 people in the original study and Bamlanivimab that had 400 people in the study. Larger studies lead to higher quality of evidence and are better at identifying side effects.


After one dose, the vaccine appears to be 50% effective. After 2 doses the vaccine is 95% effective. This means that for every 100 people who got COVID in the placebo group, only 5 people got COVID in the vaccine group. This is compared to a 3-4% absolute reduction in mortality with Remdesivir (mortality of 6.7% with Remdesivir and 11.9% with placebo by day 15 and 11.4% with Remdesivir and 15.2% with placebo by day 30). Bamlanivimab showed about a 5% absolute reduction in hospitalization (6.3% of the control group was hospitalized compared to 1.6% of patients who were treated with Bamlanivimab).


Although most patients who have COVID recover without needing hospital care, we have clearly seen a sharp increase in patients who require hospitalization and ICU level of care. Our treatment options once a patient has COVID are modest at best. I feel that the best “treatment” is prevention with the vaccine.


The vaccine appears to be safe. Side effects were more common after the second dose of the vaccine. Side effects are similar to what you may experience after a flu vaccine (injection site reaction, fatigue, muscle aches, fever), but are generally short lived and milder. You may feel ill for a day or two after receiving the vaccine versus days to weeks (and in some patients, even months) of symptoms with COVID.


Approximately 500,000 vaccines doses have been administered in the US as of 12/20 with only 3 reported “severe” allergic reactions that were successfully treated. Meanwhile more than 3,000 Americans have died each day from COVID.


It is true that we do not know the long-term effects of the vaccine. We also do not know the long term (years) effects of COVID, but we do know that many who survive the virus suffer from months long side effects such as fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, chronic lung disease, long term oxygen requirement, decreased stamina, anxiety/PTSD symptoms, etc.


A friend of mine who is an emergency physician and a researcher put together an excellent, objective review on the vaccines (below). I recommend you find a source that you trust and come to your own informed decision.


Google doc with great information: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1f1WNa-DVT2N-TPhDoKONO2zHVrUenYNC4pGRIeOSa3M/edit?fbclid=IwAR0qQoaEXfF22zNoCUfOV53EajWlWscM15UX-LNYaOWhTJf_1oyBWqDRgBM


If you have any questions or concerns I would encourage you to make an appointment with your primary care provider or call one of our clinics to make an appointment.


Sincerely,

Robert J Wenger

Physician Emergency

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