By An Island Doctor
When COVID-19 started, I was stunned like everyone else. As the dust settled, I had more questions than answers from our major government institutions. I had colleagues with the same questions and uncertainty as myself, while others took the guidance from the CDC without question as a trustworthy source that needs no further evaluation.
When then-President Trump said we’d have a vaccine soon, I didn’t believe him at all. Properly testing new drugs and vaccines takes many years, or even decades. When the COVID-19 vaccines were given emergency approval in mere months, I was skeptical. How could they, in such a brief period of time, be adequately tested or justify the claims made by the CDC and FDA?
The media took a hard-handed approach, encouraging everyone to get vaccinated to protect our most vulnerable. We all heard that getting vaccinated yourself would prevent transmission to others. Knowing what I know about the different kinds of vaccines, I was hesitant to believe that. This is true about some vaccines, but not all. As more data came out, it quickly became clear that there was no evidence to support the claim, and the CDC finally acknowledged this just recently.
Friends and families were pitted against each other as some were hesitant to inject a brand new pharmaceutical technology into their own or their child’s body, while others were first in line. It was incredibly isolating to not know who you could talk to before knowing what they believed. Tension between my colleagues, friends, and family members was incredibly stressful, and now I am terribly sad that, in some cases, the damage done by the media lies, manipulations, and pressure of the last few years have left irreparable rifts between myself and people I love.
I joined a discussion group of other doctors who wanted more information. I felt relieved to find over 100 mostly Washington state healthcare providers who also wanted to decipher the COVID research and statistics for themselves. What we continue to uncover – after more than a year of shared inquiry – is far more nuanced and complicated than anything covered by the mainstream news. The plethora of COVID data is enough to leave anyone (even someone trained to interpret it) overwhelmed.
Friends and acquaintances often ask my opinion on the hot-button health topics of the day. Sometimes I share my thoughts on Facebook, as I have for many years. However, some of the newer studies discussed in my group of doctors, even when hosted on the NIH website, have been flagged as “COVID misinformation.” Who are we to believe more? Scientific research, or Facebook’s anonymous “fact-checkers?” Of course, the studies that interest me most are the same studies that never see the light of day at CNN or on NPR.
How are you supposed to be able to confidently make a decision about injecting your children with newly available mRNA technology when you are barely able to access all the information needed to become fully informed? How can we “trust our doctor” when he or she hasn’t taken the time to read beyond the surface or ask independent questions?
It has been freely acknowledged that the new bivalent Omicron boosters have had no testing in humans. They were tested in rodents and then made available to anyone willing to take them. If you had told most people this would happen three years ago, there would have been outrage and, surely, this would absolutely never have been approved! Yet here we are, and the outrage is being silenced.
Parents are the only people fully weighted with the outcome of decisions related to their child’s care. What should you do when you lack confidence in the information given? All medical interventions come with risk; to pretend it is zero is irresponsible. Parents feel alone with an agonizing decision.
As with all important decisions, parents must never make an important medical decision under pressure, while feeling rushed, or when vital questions remain unanswered. Whether you’re talking to an oncologist, gynecologist, or pediatrician, if your doctor is condescending, find another one.
Making a decision simply because that is what your sister did for her kids isn’t truly informed decision-making. My goal, as a doctor, is to answer questions as fully as possible, so that my patients feel confident they are making the best, informed choice for their children. If your extended family is belittling your decision-making, or trying to undermine your authority as the ultimate caretaker of your child’s health, firmly let them know you have heard them and know where they stand; however, the decision remains yours alone.
With so much difference in the availability of information, few to none of us have been able to make a fully informed choice. We must remember that everyone has different perspectives and that we are all trying to do our best. Don’t judge others for making a different decision from you. Also, remember that you are under no obligation to share or discuss your choice with others.
If we want to point the finger of blame, we ought to look to mainstream media for encouraging contention, distrust and ostracism. Let us not allow ourselves to be divided against family and friends over personal medical decisions that – according to the data – don’t affect anyone but the individual making the choice.
Information is still coming together. Children are at extremely small risk for COVID complications. It is reasonable to wait. There is no need to rush to vaccinate children.
Editorial Note: Here at The Vashon Loop, we do not grant anonymity lightly. In the case of, An Island Doctor, we have determined the author faces substantial risk, merely for speaking honestly. Please see our Ethics column on page 2.