By Dr. Jerry Abraham, Director, Kedren Vaccines at Kedren Health in Los Angeles
As we approach the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is gratifying to see that the vaccine is working to prevent some of the worst outcomes of the virus, including hospitalizations and deaths. Sadly, that is not the case for unvaccinated Californians, who are nearly 12 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, and 17 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than fully vaccinated and boosted people.
While no vaccine provides 100 percent immunity, we know vaccination and boosters remain the most effective way to keep ourselves healthy against COVID-19.
However, misinformation about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines is running rampant, especially in Black and African American communities. As a doctor on the frontlines of the pandemic, I see how misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines comes at a high cost — putting our already vulnerable populations at higher risk for infection and death.
Misinformation carries dangerous consequences for Black and African American communities, which are at heightened risk for transmission due to lower-than-average vaccination rates. Misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccines can appear to be informative and factual because it is easily found on social media or online sources. However, it inhibits our judgement to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones. Ultimately, misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccines is causing cases of avoidable illness and death.
The facts are that the vaccines are not new. They were well-researched prior to being made available to the public. Previous pandemics prompted decades of vaccine research and informed development of the COVID-19 vaccines; and the mRNA vaccination method used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines was in development for at least 10 years prior to the pandemic.
COVID-19 will continue to evolve with new strains and variants, and we must continue to prepare for the future — even though we cannot fully predict it. That is why medical experts continue to stress vaccination, booster shots, and mask wearing as safeguards against COVID-19 infection. We know these solutions are effective for keeping ourselves, loved ones and communities safe.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that unvaccinated individuals who have had COVID-19 were “more than twice as likely as fully vaccinated people to contract COVID-19 again.” The vaccines can also help guard against re-infection.
Research shows that the COVID-19 vaccines provide more substantial protection than natural immunity. The vaccines can also reduce the risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, and boosters increase a person’s immunity almost immediately.
While mask mandates at the state level have been shifting, we know that wearing a mask is an important tool to stay safe. Regardless of what the mandates are in your county, I recommend a properly worn mask in indoors public spaces when social distancing is not possible. Make mask-wearing and vaccination part of your tactics to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic.
If you come across information about COVID-19 or vaccination that you are unsure about, consult a trusted healthcare provider about your concerns. You should also visit covid19.ca.gov or the CDC.gov for timely, accurate information about the pandemic.