Should I risk getting vaccinated?

I haven’t been vaccinated yet. I’m 19, a college student, no known preexisting health conditions. Should I get vaccinated? Is it worth the risk?

I know there are risks both ways:

If I do get vaccinated…

  • Scientists still don’t know what the long-term effects of the Covid-19 vaccine may be. It’s possible that in 10 years a credible report will come up linking the Covid vaccine to really negative side effects.
  • Even now, I hear a lot of stories about people developing weird health problems soon after getting the vaccine. Did the vaccine cause those conditions, or were they all coincidences? Either way, it’s a risk with a lot of unknown variables.

If I don’t get vaccinated…

  • I could contract Covid-19. But I’m young, with no known health conditions, so there’s very little danger of me dying or getting complications from side effects. It’d be a week or so of being sick, and then it’d be over.
  • I could pass on Covid-19 to someone else. But as far as I know, the vaccine doesn’t do anything to stop pass-on rates. I’ve heard that the vaccine doesn’t reduce your likelihood of getting Covid-19 or spreading it to anyone else, all it does it lessen the symptoms if you do contract Covid-19. If what I’ve heard is correct, it doesn’t make a difference whether I have the vaccine or not – Covid-19 can still spread through me with just as much likelihood.

So right now, I’m leaning toward not getting the vaccine. Does anyone agree or disagree with my decision? Is there some crucial scientific or medical information about the vaccine that I’m forgetting about that I should know?

Thanks,
Skyler

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You should absolutely get the vaccine. It’s not only about risk to you – the pandemic is a public health emergency, and everyone needs to do their part. The reason for this current severe spike is exactly because everyone eligible did not get vaccinated when they could. Little kids and adolescents are dying because of it. I feel for the healthcare workers – they have justification in being worn out and angry.

The spike has not been labeled ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ for nothing.

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I’m in my 20s and I received the vaccine. Nothing happened at all. Statistically speaking, with more vaccinations, you are going to get more reactions simply due to numbers. This can be seen with the Flu vaccine as well. I personally would not risk it. Because people are not getting vaccinated, this is providing an outlet for the virus to create such mutations such as the Delta Variant which is far more dangerous than the Wild strain. In fact, I believe that you are more at a risk for contracting the Delta variant at this point because it is being the dominate strain, and it is quite worse than the original. This variant could have been avoided because of the lack of vaccination in the world, it buys more time for more stronger strains. Also people think they can recover quick from it, but I have some family members who have died and were young and healthy. So it’s pretty much rolling the dice not taking it.

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That is not true. Vaccinated folks are way less likely to get sick at all, way less likely to get very sick and they do way better even if they do need to be hospitalized. For the latter, they are way less likely to need to be put in the ICU or on a vent. Fewer severely sick means there is less virus to be propagated and it minimizes replication errors (i.e., new variants).

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Of course you’re also more likely to live long enough to find out what those effects may be. Haven’t you had other vaccines? I see no reason to expect anything more for this one than others.

Beyond saving your own life you’ll also be contributing to the health of your community.

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You do not hear them from reliable sources. The side effects are just way milder symptoms rather than the acute ones you would get if you came down with COVID. I had a slightly sore arm after the first shot and a little more sore after the second. Side effects are a good thing because it means that your immune system is working and the vaccine is too.

Even one of the ‘weird’ ones, a myocarditis in a very small number of teenage boys, corrects itself without intervention and saves the kid from permanent heart damage or death if he had gotten sick from the real thing.

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It’s also ‘rolling the dice’ for others (particularly children, again), and that should not be ‘our choice’, since they cannot choose.

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The mRNA vaccine: A single RNA gene that produces one protein, the S protein.

The COVID infection: 20+ different RNA genes that produce many proteins, include the S protein.

The choice is between an RNA gene that produces one protein or the entire RNA viral genome that produces 20+ genes including the gene found in the vaccine. Any effects from the vaccine will also be found in the viral infection because both carry the S protein. If the vaccine has effects 10 years down the road then so too will the infection. In addition, no vaccine in history has had negative side effects that show up 10 years down the road. You are orders of magnitude more likely to die from the infection than you are to have negative side effects that show up 10 years down the road.

The viral infection has killed over 600,000 Americans, and that number includes people under the age of 18. The mRNA vaccine has not killed anyone.

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Thanks for the excellent detailed argument!

Also worth considering:

These are kids who are being considered for critical care because of a COVID infection. These aren’t kids who are in the hospital because they got the vaccine. If the numbers were flipped where kids were piling into hospitals because they took the vaccine but none were there because of the infection, wouldn’t we all be saying how much riskier the vaccine is? So why shouldn’t we conclude that the infection is way, way riskier than the vaccine?

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True, thanks for bringing that up. And I think in this case, the probability of getting infected is higher than rolling the dice if I’m not mistaken. It’s a manner of when, not if.

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Yes - best to just get the shots and get that out of the way. One less thing for you to worry so much about - and you help join all of us by contributing toward herd immunity rather than allowing your body to remain a nursery for new variants.

And don’t be discouraged if you feel a bit of fever or sluggishness the evening after either of your two shots. That’s normal - and means your immune system is on the job, and busy getting the training it needs.

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Fact: the vaccine is free; hospitalization isn’t.
So, are you independently wealthy or are you covered by health-care insurance (yours, or a family-member’s?)
If you’re independently wealthy, are you a gambler or are you risk-adverse?
If you’re independently wealthy and a gambler, what are the odds that you will pay out more money if you don’t get vaccinated versus the odds that you will pay out more money if you do get vaccinated? I don’t know, but I suspect that a competent statistician will tell you that your odds of paying out money will be higher if you don’t get vaccinated than if you do get vaccinated.
If, however, you’re independently wealthy and risk-adverse, which is riskier and costlier? Getting vaccinated or not getting vaccinated.
On the other hand, if you’re not independently wealthy and are covered by your own or a family-member’s insurance, ask your insurer whether they recommend you get vaccinated or they recommend that you not get vaccinated. I don’t know, but I suspect that your insurer will recommend that you get vaccinated. It would be interesting to know whether or not your insurer will pay for hospitalization if you intentionally refuse to get vaccinated.
Suppose, instead, that you’re not independently wealthy or covered by someone’s insurance plan. In that case, you’re going to accumulate a substantial debt if you’re hospitalized. If you’re hospitalized and survive infection, the good news is that you may actually live the 10 years or so that you think you’ll need to see a report on the effectiveness of the vaccine, during which you’ll have some time to pay off the hospitalization debt that you accumulated when you got infected If, however, you don’t survive the hospitalization, you won’t have to worry about paying off the hospitalization and burial debt that you accumulate. However, there’s a chance that somebody’s going to try to collect money from your family-members, either for your hospitalization or burial or both.
If you have difficulty calculating the odds, consider asking an insurance company to calculate the odds for you. I don’t know if you can find one that will, but what the heck, give trying to find one that will a shot.

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Glad you’re asking these questions. My family members asked the same.

Actually, the vaccine does indeed prevent infection in the vast majority of people. Can you cite where you heard this? It is true with the Delta, too.

The vaccine is very safe. Seriously–it’s been one of the best tested vaccines out there. I’m a family doc, and the infection rate has dramatically decreased with the vaccine. It is increasing again, however, and I am afraid of what will happen with school, especially if young people don’t mask or vaccinate. It was pretty awful with the spikes.

If you want a parallel, the flu vaccine is made new every year, with a lot less effectiveness. It also allows some (but a minority) to get the flu, and helps many more to live through it (flu is nothing like Covid in severity, by the way; 400,000 is about the number of Americans who died in WWII in 4 years; and it has reached 600,000 now). If we had good herd immunization with the flu vaccine, we would save thousands more lives than we do (immunization rates are not great with the flu vaccine). Covid vaccine is much more effective, and we are getting great improvement with it.

It is thought that if we vaccinated more people, we would not have the infection reservoirs where Delta and others mutated.

Not getting vaccinated, and getting sick (often spreading it before you know you’re sick) is much more risk to those around you.

Also, young people do get sick. One coworker in my office had an 8 year old son intubated with it, who was healthy otherwise. I know others who have died in the much younger range, too.

Keep up the good work. I appreciate your thoughtful contributions to this forum. I am happy to discuss other questions, too, though I don’t know all the answers. Thanks.

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how likely are vaccinated people to actually pass the virus on, if they do get infected? Evidence is increasing that, not only do COVID-19 vaccines either stop you getting sick or substantially reduce the severity of your symptoms, they are also likely to substantially reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to others.

In April, Public Health England reported the results of a large study of COVID-19 transmission involving more than 365,000 households with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated members.

It found immunisation with either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the chance of onward virus transmission by 40–60%. This means that if someone became infected after being vaccinated, they were only around half as likely to pass their infection on to others compared to infected people who were not vaccinated.

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In the same way that a driver doesn’t need to wear their seat belt. Sure - the vast majority of people who refuse to belt up while driving will probably not die because of their carelessness. But statistics are pretty clear that among those who are involved in dangerous accidents, being belted in dramatically increases their chance of surviving, and decreases the amount of injury among survivors. Only unlike seat belts, with the vaccine your choice also affects your community and not just you.

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But do they acquire and pass it on at the same rate?

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There are so many wrong things there to correct. Sobriety and careful driving decreases your chance of being in an accident in the first place - but not to zero. There are other drivers on the road too, who may cause you to have an accident through no fault of your own (exactly analogous to how COVID can spread too despite precautions being taken by some). Racing drivers?! Are you kidding? They even have special four-point harnesses they use because they of all people know how dangerous it is to not be secured in place.

While it is true that healthy young people are less likely to die than older ones or ones with other health issues, their death rate from COVID of 18-29 year olds still is not zero. And their probability of helping spread it is far, far from zero.

This is like pointing to the extremely few cases where somebody’s seatbelt actually did kill them by trapping them in a car and taking that as evidence that people shouldn’t use restraint. Even with that very rare possibility considered, it is still stupid for people to drive without seatbelts. And no - the vaccine has killed extremely few of the people who have taken it (0.0017% to be more exact - of 310 million doses given in the U.S. according to VAERS as of June 2021). And it’s probably a good bet
that most of those deaths were people who had other health issues going on. It’s reality, Nick.

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These are also kids who will probably have permanently damaged lungs.

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Technically parents can choose to put 2 masks and a face shield on a child and avoid packed public spaces. Though thus far the odds of a child getting sick and dying have been astronomically low if I understand them correctly. Possibly comparable to being struck by lightning. In some sense people have to bare responsibility and protect themselves and their families. I know for certain if I had an underlying condition and couldn’t vaccinate, I would not expect the whole world to stop and wear masks on account of me. I would mask up, put on a shield, curbside pick-up and so on. Too many people want to vilify all the unvaccinated and unmasked as if they are rolling the dice with other people’s lives. You roll your own dice when you choose to go outside without a mask and face shield. Limit your interactions, double mask and shield, you should be fine.

Of course, public schools complicate the issue.

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