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Shot or Not

Going into 2020, none of us knew what it was going to be like. Maybe you had plans like a vacation or graduation, a new job or a wedding. Or maybe you were looking forward to spending quality time with family that you don't get to see very often. Whatever you were hoping to do in 2020, COVID-19 probably changed your plans somehow, and you may even be mourning a loved one this year.

I'm a family practice doctor, and like most other healthcare workers, I was thrilled to hear that the coronavirus vaccines had been made, and that they work so well. Everyone should talk to their own doctor about whether the vaccine is a good choice for them, and I made sure to read everything I could find about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, so I could help my patients decide what they wanted to do when given the chance to get one.

Many people wonder how they will feel after a shot, and if the shots are safe. The possible side effects are the same as for most other vaccines: arm pain where the shot is given, body aches, fatigue, fever, headache, etc. Side effects usually only last a couple of days, and go away on their own. The vaccine is very safe, and definitely safer than getting an infection. A lot of people - 25 million Americans! - have already gotten a shot, and nobody has died because of the vaccine. On the other hand, 26 million Americans have had COVID-19, and over 400,000 people have died because of those infections. Most people who get infected will be sick for days or weeks. We are also learning that ~1 in 10 people will have symptoms or signs of organ damage for months after they get COVID-19. I've had patients and friends who still can't taste or smell, or who have cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, brain fog - the list is long! Most people who get COVID-19 will survive and probably be just fine in the long run. But this virus is unpredictable, and can hurt people in many ways.

I wear a mask and got the vaccine because I don't want to take chances with my family's health. I got my shot so that someday I can hug my parents and in-laws and baby niece again. I got my shot so that someday I can hold my grandparents' hands, and tell them how much I missed them in 2020. I got my shot because I love my family so much, and I never want to be the reason that they got sick. The vaccines are giving us a chance to beat this virus, so I'm not throwing away my shot!

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