If you’re among the 20% who won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine, this message is for you

·3 min read

As of this month, everyone in Idaho over the age of 15 can get vaccinated against COVID-19.

That’s great news, and a majority of Idahoans are either already vaccinated or eager to get the shot. But about 20% say they won’t do it, and if you’re in that 20%, this message is for you.

Dr. Tommy Ahlquist.
Dr. Tommy Ahlquist.

I experienced COVID-19 firsthand: My family and I contracted the virus in November, despite following all of the recommended guidelines. The virus does not discriminate in who it infects, and the regulations that have been put in place have impacted all of us. The surest way to chart a new path forward is to get a vaccine. Vaccines are the safest way to protect yourself from COVID-19 and the fastest way to help move us beyond the pandemic.

I believe in personal freedom and liberty. I am also a former emergency room doctor, and I understand that in a global health pandemic, we all have a role to play. Right now, that means getting your shot when you are able.

Of course, it’s natural to have questions about a brand-new medication.

In fact, one reason people often give for avoiding the vaccine is that they want to wait and see, to be sure it doesn’t harm their health. The thing is, though, scientists, researchers and doctors have been monitoring that for over a year, so the waiting and seeing has been happening for quite some time.

These vaccines have all undergone the standard, thorough clinical trial process involving tens of thousands of volunteers. To date, nearly one million doses have been administered in our state and nearly 200 million across the country.

Scientists and health care workers are constantly on the lookout for side effects. Severe allergic reactions have been extremely rare. Some patients experience a day or two of headaches, fever or muscle pain at worst. When you consider the alternative, this seems quite reasonable.

Serious cases of COVID-19, on the other hand, require hospitalization and a ventilator. Too many of our citizens have lost loved ones, and we have all lost a year of connection. Even patients who recover are sometimes left with damage to the heart, lungs and brain.

While the past year has taught us a number of hard lessons, we can celebrate one accomplishment and that is that the United States has now authorized multiple safe, highly effective vaccines. Every person who gets the shot helps life get back to normal.

Researchers developed the new vaccines with impressive speed, in less than a year. That’s made some folks worry that they were rushed into production. But in fact, COVID-19 vaccines went through exactly the same rigorous three-phase trials as all approved medication in our country. If you trust your medicines for diabetes, blood pressure or heart disease are safe, you can trust that these vaccines are, too.

You may have heard other rumors, like claims that you can catch COVID-19 from a vaccine. That’s simply false, since the vaccines don’t contain the living virus that causes the disease.

In short, skepticism is no longer warranted. Meanwhile, we all have a lot to gain if everyone gets vaccinated as soon as they can.

We all can and must do our part to get back to normal, where we can travel freely around our country and hold concerts, weddings, church services and gatherings that are as big as we like.

It all relies on each of us being ready and willing when it’s time to sign up for a shot.

Tommy Ahlquist is a former emergency room doctor and current CEO of BVA Development.