'Masks work. Anything works just a little bit, or somewhat. Nothing is 100 percent. The vaccination is not 100 percent.'
Area doctors said they’ve heard every reason in the book for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
So far – medically, for them -- not a single one holds water.
“It’s new. It’s unproven,” they say they’re told.
“The problem with a lot of the arguments . . . that it’s a very new vaccine: They’ve been working on this vaccine since – some people say 2008, some say 2003, some people say 2013,” Physicians PremiER co-founder Dr. Lonnie Schwirtlich said. "They’ve been working on this for a long time.”
But how could a vaccine for a virus that’s less than two years old have been in the works for more than a decade?
Because coronaviruses aren't new.
Coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s, according to the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases. They began as generally mild respiratory diseases which only affected the patient who is ill.
The SARS-CoV outbreak in China in 2002 was the first recorded case of a coronavirus being lethal to humans, killing 774 people across 29 countries, according to the Journal of Biomedical Science. Shortly after its outbreak is when the search for a vaccine began. The novel coronavirus we currently are experiencing is SARS-CoV-2, a mutation of what was originally known as SARS.
“So this isn’t a new method,” Schwirtlich said.
Another reason they hear is that it doesn’t work: People who are vaccinated still get COVID-19.
“The key with this virus is, No. 1, try not to expose yourself to it,” he said. “But more than likely, 100 percent of people eventually is (sic) going to get this disease. So realize – you are going to be exposed to this and catch it eventually. Now, when you get it, how do you want to get it? Would you rather be infected and be able to fight this thing off so that you don’t have any side effects afterwards? For sure.”
And just like vaccines aren’t foolproof, neither are masks.
“Masks work,” he said. “Anything works just a little bit, or somewhat. Nothing is 100 percent. The vaccination is not 100 percent. Every one of these factors works to – when you get (COVID-19), when you get exposed it to – it’s the least chance that you have that’s it’s going to be a bad one.”
He pointed to a graphic which showed the hospitalization rate for Monday: 15 fully vaccinated people were being hospitalized – not necessarily because of COVID-19, but because it was detected in the patient’s body as they were being treated for something else. The number of unvaccinated patients in local hospitals, however, was 521.
As KRIS 6 News anchor Katia Uriarte fired off question after question, suddenly, one came back at her.
“Can I ask you a question?” said Amistad Community Health Center Dr. Jacqueline Phillips. “Are you vaccinated?”
“Yes,” Uriarte said.
“Why did you get vaccinated?” Phillips asked.
“Because,” she said, pausing, and lowering her head with a nervous laugh. “My husband made me.”
And Uriarte shared her story with the group.
“I wasn’t gonna take the vaccine,” she said. “And this was in March, and I thought ‘Oh no. This -- I’m gonna wait.’ And my husband was just like ‘Please. We need to consider everybody’s health, and so, reluctantly, I did it.”
She said after getting the vaccine, she started to question why she was hesitant in the first place. She, as well, believed many of the things others point to as reasons for not getting the shot.
“Like ‘not enough research is out there,’ ” she said. “Everything that everybody is thinking. And you’ve got people who are smart, who are professional, who just say ‘I’m gonna wait.’ ”
Does she regret her decision? No, she said.
“My mother didn’t want to take it. She’s 78. (I) forced her to take it, too, to travel, and I’m so glad that we did. I got it early enough, but I understand both sides. I understand . . . well, I did, more, in March. At this point, I don’t really get it at this point. You need to get it.”
'It is much easier to get the vaccine than it is to try to survive through COVID to get it after you’ve already gotten the illness.'
But as doctors such as Phillips see people suffering every day at Amistad, she can’t see it from both sides.
“Myself, and the physicians that I work with are volunteering at the COVID clinic, we speak to between 40 to 50 patients per day that are positive for COVID,” she said. “Greater than 98 percent of these (patients) are not vaccinated. And 100 percent of those patients tell us if they survive, they want to get the vaccine. I have never had anybody that got the vaccine tell me that they regret getting the vaccine. I’ve only heard regret for not getting it.
“It is much easier to get the vaccine than it is to try to survive through COVID to get it after you’ve already gotten the illness. Preventative medicine is what we have to do.”