Nope.  Not a joke.  I am a board certified medical doctor and I am telling you that it is perfectly fine to say no the COVID-19 vaccine.  It is your body and at the end of the day you should have final decision on what you choose to put in it or not.  Full stop.

I hear a lot of discussion about why people do not want to take the vaccine and most of it seems rooted in general mistrust of the government or the medical field.  

It is understandable, reasonable and even quite appropriate to question a system that has not demonstrated its commitment to putting your best interests first.

I encourage my patients to ask me questions.  Why this medicine and not that one?  Why medication at all?  What about this more holistic remedy I read about?  I want my patients to feel educated and empowered in their healthcare. When you have all the information, you are able to make an educated decision.  I have seen a lot of misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the associated vaccine.  This is particularly concerning for me.  It is dangerous.  Spreading erroneous information is as bad as or worse than keeping information from people.

Full disclosure: I am taking the vaccine.  When I heard the vaccine was nearly ready in the fall I was HIGHLY suspicious and one of the main people saying I wouldn’t be taking any experimental vaccinations. Now that the vaccine is here, I have taken the time to look at the studies and I am impressed.  I decided to take the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine itself is new, because it’s a new virus but technology that created it is not actually as new as it seems.  The results look good.  After the two shots, the immunity rates are above 90% and those that do become infected have a milder course of illness.  The adverse events are mild and uncommon (tenderness at injection site, mild aches and pains).  The main unknown is how long the immunity will last so it may mean that the vaccine needs periodic booster shots.  That is not something that bothers me.  For me, when I looked at the risk of being exposed to COVID in the hospital, the possibility for a bad outcome if I was to become ill and the increasing rather decreasing strength and number of infections it started to feel like it was a matter of “when” I would get COVID rather than “if” I would get it.  Also on a completely selfish note, I REALLY miss travelling and I know I would not feel comfortable travelling without the vaccine. I felt that the vaccine was the best choice for me.    

It is not my desire to convince anyone to take the vaccine.  Quite frankly I think there is way too much policing of Black people in this country.  Talk like this, dress like that, style your hair like this…leave me alone!  It’s my body I will style it how I want and it should be my choice as to what goes into it or doesn’t.  I decided to write this blog post in response to seeing the volume of misinformation being spread about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine.  People using wild conspiracy theories as their justification about why they do not want to take the vaccine.  Tracking chips, population control and the list goes on. It’s 2020 we are already tracked a thousand different ways (cell phones, credit cards, security cameras…) throughout our day. They definitely don’t need this vaccine to track you.  Population control and socioeconomic warfare exists in or community with food deserts, subpar schooling and police brutality.  They don’t need the vaccine to do that.  

People are scared of this disease and scared of this vaccine because they are new and unknown.  COVID infection is unpredictable and devastating on a scale that we have never seen before.  The unknown is scary.  Walking into a pitch dark unfamiliar room is anxiety inducing.  Turn on the lights and that anxiety level comes right down. Black people were brought to America and they have controlled us from the beginning by controlling our access to information.  Made sure we didn’t speak our native tongues so that they could always know what we were discussing.  Made sure we didn’t know how to read and write so they could control the flow of information.  Made our schooling separate but unequal.  Kept us out of their clubs and outside of rooms were decisions were being made.  Now we have the opportunity to educate ourselves and instead of taking time to learn what is really going on I see far too many people passing around fanciful boogie man stories.  Please don’t be manipulated by fear.  Please elevate the discussion.  

There are plenty of reasonable questions and criticisms of the healthcare system.  I think they are drastically missing the mark when they say things like let’s roll out the vaccine first in Black communities or asking or attempting to shame prominent Black people to take the vaccine publicly in order to make Black people comfortable with taking it.  America likes to skip over the dark parts of its history when telling its story and just hope everyone forgets.  We can’t forget because it is still happening. Some of you have seen the horrible story of Dr. Susan Moore whose concerns about her COVID symptoms were dismissed and when she succumbed to the disease, the statement from the hospital was that maybe she “intimidated” the people who were to be providing her care. If the medical profession wants Black people to feel more comfortable with the care it provides it needs to publicly acknowledge its dirty history, acknowledge its current failures and demonstrate its commitment to fixing this broken system.  The healthcare system has to also understand that doing one PSA or putting one or two Black people in high positions is not going to make all Black people trust things overnight.  There have been hundreds of years of disgusting treatment, it will not all be forgiven overnight.    

When it comes to your health please arm yourself with education.  Ask questions.  Do research. Seek second opinions.  If something does not feel right, speak up.  Advocate for yourself.  If you choose to take or not take a medication do so in an informed way.  One of my attendings in medical school gave me a precious bit of advice that I have carried with me.  I was frustrated with a diabetic patient who simply would not take their insulin and other diabetes medications as prescribed.  She told me that my job as a doctor is to educate my patient and give them the best and most accurate information about their condition as possible.  She said that at the end of the day, it is that patient’s decision to take your advice or not.  It is their life to live.  It is not my job to make their decisions for them.  I did not fail if a patient chose not to take my advice, I failed if I did not provide them with all the information and they made an uninformed decision.  I enjoy my own autonomy and I hate being talked down to or told what to do.  I do not think that it is mine or any other doctor’s role to tell anyone how to live their life.  Your decision to take or not take the vaccine is a personal one but I just encourage you with this and all your health decisions to make that decision based on the best information available to you.  If you look at the information and it doesn’t sit right with you, then you should say “No, I don’t feel comfortable with that.” And that decision should be respected.