After a year of COVID, I’ve had a wonderful summer, having never worn a mask outside — not even once. As a health care professional, I became fully vaccinated in January. After the second Pfizer inoculation, I felt feverish for 24 hours but then felt fine.
Since the lockdown was lifted, my family and I have enjoyed our summer. My wife and two children have received their COVID vaccinations. We dine out at restaurants locally and at the beach. We had fun at Carteret County Speedway and enjoyed a Wilson Tobs game. We have done so without fear of becoming seriously ill from COVID.
At the food vendor at Carteret Speedway in early July, I was sure many people carried the virus, but I was not worried because immunized people usually do not get the virus, and if they do, they generally don’t get sick.
Unfortunately, COVID is again rearing its ugly head (or capsid) in North Carolina. Daily cases have gone from about 100 per day to 2,000 per day in the last month. People in hospitals have gone from about 400 to about 800 each day. Almost all new cases occur in unvaccinated people.
The COVID vaccine is not a conspiracy — it is biotechnology. Pfizer and Moderna executives are making so much money they would never allow the government to place a chip in the vials. COVID vaccines are messenger RNA molecules injected under the skin that make their way into your immune cells, forcing them to produce COVID capsid protein. The capsid protein then stimulates other immune cells to produce a robust immune response. Your DNA is never altered.
The vaccine cannot cause COVID infection. Once immune, if you’re exposed to someone carrying the virus, the first particles in your nasal passage are destroyed by antibodies and immune cells. Like all vaccines, COVID inoculations may have short-term side effects like aches and fever. Side effects do not last long, and many patients get no side effects. The vaccine’s long-term side effects are unknown but are probably less than long-term side effects from COVID infection.
Eventually, everyone will become immune to COVID, either by infection or vaccination. In Wilson, 181 people have died from COVID infection, but none have died from the vaccine. People continue to die, including from the new delta variant, but the vaccines also protect against this new form.
Although COVID vaccines are presently FDA-approved only on an emergency basis, full approval is expected soon. The Food and Drug Administration cannot fully approve the vaccine until the agency has more real-world data. My family made the decision not to wait for full FDA approval, and we now enjoying public gatherings with little fear of contracting serious COVID illness. If I was not fully vaccinated, I would continue to wear a mask in public, given the continued widespread circulation of the virus.
Rest assured, people fully vaccinated against COVID can walk with confidence in public spaces without a mask. With few exceptions, vaccinated people have little risk of acquiring serious COVID illness. So if you have not done so already (and have not yet contracted COVID), call your doctor or the Wilson County COVID-19 Hotline at 252-360-0500, get your COVID vaccination and go out and have fun!
I am really looking forward to the N.C. Whirligig Festival — without a mask. Hope to see you there!
Keith Lerro, M.D., is a board-certified oncologist and hematologist at Regional Medical Oncology Center in Wilson.
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