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Still waiting to get vaccinated? We won't shame you. But please hear this good news.

Posted on May 20, 2021 • Category: Story
By Editorial Board, Arizona Republic

Arizona Central

Opinion: If you haven't been vaccinated for COVID-19 - or you have and know those who haven't - these words are for you.

Do you know how fortunate you are?

People all over the world are desperate to get any of the U.S. vaccines for COVID-19. But you can sit in your easy chair at home in metro Phoenix, pull out your cellphone and text your ZIP code to 438829.

Instantaneously, thanks to Uncle Sam, you'll get a list of outlets right near your home where you can get vaccinated.

Your cup runneth over. While people in India and Africa and Latin America beg for the vaccine to reach them, you have it all around you in abundance. If you want it this day, you can get it. Probably at your local pharmacy.

It's a snap.

This editorial is not about pressuring you to get vaccinated. We don't want to criticize you because you've made a personal choice to forgo it. We just want to tell you that the news about COVID-19 vaccine is not just good, it's great.

If you've already been vaccinated but know of someone who is reluctant to get their jab, these words are also for you. Because the arguments are truly powerful.

Don't take it from us. Listen to a doctor
In January, Sybil Francis, president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to help Arizonans create a better future, reported some revealing poll numbers: When it comes to questions of the COVID-19 vaccine, Arizonans overwhelmingly trust their medical professionals to be straight with them, far more than they trust politicians, church leaders and traditional media.

So we went to a medical professional who leads Arizona State University's COVID-19 research efforts, Joshua LaBaer, director of the ASU Biodesign Institute, to frame the arguments for vaccination.

Dr. LaBaer earned his medical degree and a doctorate in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of California, San Francisco.

He did his medical residency at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and a clinical fellowship in oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, both in Boston.

If you are at all hesitant about getting the vaccine, he's here to relieve your concerns.

Vaccines are safe - and they're not new
Many Americans do not understand that medical science didn't just create these vaccines on a pandemic dime. They're not an overnight success, he said.

"The technology that went into these vaccines has been developing over decades. Even the mNRA vaccines (that teach our cells how to make a protein and trigger an immune response) – that whole technology has been worked on for many, many years. And that industry pivoted to address COVID-19."

The testing has been rigorous, he said. "Tens of thousands of people were tested to make sure these vaccines were effective. And then, of course, in the United States alone, just the United States, 276 million doses have been given to people. So this is something that … has been tested extraordinarily thoroughly. People have watched very carefully to see what happens."

All that monitoring points to this conclusion: The vaccines are "extremely safe," he said.

"Serious adverse events were (seen) at the rate of less than one in a million. So they're very, very effective. They effectively eliminate the risk of a severe COVID-19 infection."

It is possible in very rare cases that someone could get a breakthrough infection despite having had the vaccine, he said, "but it would be asymptomatic or mild symptomatic. In terms of severe outcomes, it effectively eliminates it."

You've got a 1 in 5 chance without the shot
Further, COVID-19 has not gone away and may never go away. You'll need your armor.

"Let's think about those people who have not yet been vaccinated. I think those people could be lulled into a sense that they are safe because they see low numbers right now. ... But those people are still unprotected. They have nothing for themselves to protect them from getting infected. So if they chance upon somebody who is infected they will run the risk of getting infected.

"Now let's think about what that means. We now know, and there is good data to support this, in the best case, middle-aged people and younger people, not necessarily the above-65 crowd, that if you get infected and you're unprotected by the vaccine, you have a 1-in-5 chance of having a severe outcome. One-in-5. That's a gun with five chambers and one bullet. You're sitting there and hoping you're not that 1-in-5 person who ends up in a hospital with a severe infection."

Even if you survive COVID-19, you risk "long-term consequences, everything from mental health and memory disorders, pulmonary and respiratory disorders, loss of taste and smell, (and) now there's evidence that men may have impotence."

You may have been lucky so far, but you are tempting fate. "The longer you go without vaccination the more accumulated chance you have of encountering someone who has it. ... If you come in contact with somebody you're almost certainly going to get it."

Don't wait. Text 438829 to find vaccine
Mask wearing is becoming more a thing of the past, so there will be infected people who are not masked spreading to others, he explained.

Some variants of the pathogen can attack children at higher rates than we've seen to date. But more good news, the vaccine is so far effective against them, he explained. Yet another reason to protect yourself – so you don't infect those you love.

So what are you waiting for? Your fellow Americans are getting vaccinated by the hundreds of millions and enjoying the peace of mind it brings.

Just text 438829 with your ZIP code.

It's a snap.