The Chief’s Desk – January 8th

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Happy second Friday of 2021! I trust the first seven days have not been a complete disaster for anyone – so we’ll take that for the win. Now, we tackle the second full week of the year with the same positive outlook we had as we kicked 2020 to the curb. My apologies, I write this earlier in the week these days, due to the podcast, and had not counted on some of the events that have since unfolded in our country. Maybe next week will be without disaster… Keep your head up and a positive attitude.

The vaccine is out and wow are we being bombarded with a ton of information! Some accurate, and some not so accurate. Isn’t it interesting how we use numbers in a way that illustrates the picture we want to paint, e.g. fear, or safety? I’m not being negative, just pointing out a fact. For example, the COVID-19 survivability rate is not scary if you look at the survival percentage. To that end, numbers of cases and deaths are reported using the “actual” number because that can be scary, if that’s all you are considering. However, the side effects of a vaccine are likely presented as a percentage because the percentage looks really good, and we know that using actual numbers can be scary. Since the desire is to have people take the vaccine, we cannot use any numbers that might cause fear. It is truly a tangled web we weave. This is also why our law enforcement partners are far better at obtaining grants than fire departments, i.e. they know how to play the numbers game.

I am not here to advocate for or against the vaccine, however, I do intend to offer factual information that I hope will provide some clarity, and maybe help you make your decision. Firstly, I think it is important you understand the definition of vaccine. The Oxford definition of vaccine is a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases, prepared from the causative agent of a disease, its products, or a synthetic substitute, treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease.

As we know, there are a lot of vaccines available, measles, polio, mumps, smallpox, diphtheria, for example. The flu shot is actually the influenza vaccine. What should be clear is that some vaccines can eradicate a disease or virus while others do not. For example, the measles has or had been eliminated through vaccinations. Although the World Health Organization declared the measles eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, it is reemerging as a result of international travelers and the anti-vaccination movement in our country according to the CDC.

The influenza vaccine is slightly different in that it does not eradicate the influenza virus. Influenza includes four different types, although two, Type A and Type B, are the most common in humans. According to the CDC, as much as it pains me to use anything from that group, influenza viruses mutate each year in a couple of different ways. How they shift determines whether or not your immune system will recognize and fight the virus. To that end, they create an influenza vaccine twice a year in hopes that they develop the correct formula to address the new strain.

It appears that scientists have not been able to eradicate influenza because it has the ability to mutate. At best, they have been able to reduce the virus’ impact. That said, we have learned to live with it, and have both the flu shot, as well as medications, to treat the symptoms. Still, the flu can be deadly and in those years they are not able to create the correct vaccine, we typically realize a significant number of deaths, and our healthcare system ends up overwhelmed.

What about the COVID-19 vaccine? It was developed in record time and pushed to market. As with any vaccine, there can be side effects that vary from mild, to moderate, to severe. Overall, from what I’ve seen/heard, the vaccine does appear safe. However, there are those with preexisting conditions for whom the vaccine may not be recommended. Folks who have taken the Pfizer vaccine seem to have a few more side effects than those who have received the Moderna vaccine. The vaccine currently being offered in our area is the Moderna.

Due to the fact that the vaccine was developed and pushed to market so rapidly, there is not enough data to indicate whether the vaccine will eradicate COVID, or if they will need to develop annual COVID vaccines. We have heard that new strains of COVID have been detected as the virus mutates. Based on available information, it appears COVID-19 is another Coronavirus for which we will need to strengthen our immune systems as it will not be eliminated through a vaccination process. Over time, our immune systems will grow stronger and better able to fight the virus. Some may need the COVID shot/s to aid their immune systems, others may develop an ability to fight the virus without receiving the shot/s.

Unfortunately, I have seen some folks posting information comparing the COVID vaccine to the measles or polio vaccines. Posting this type of comparison is misleading and irresponsible. The other vaccines were developed over a period of years and were very successful in eliminating the diseases. There are seven different types of Coronaviruses of which COVID-19 is one. The first human Coronavirus was detected in 1960. It is currently 2021 and no vaccines have been developed to eliminate any of the other six types of Coronavirus – at least from what I could tell on the CDC’s website. To that end, it does not seem plausible that they have developed one to eliminate the newest version of the virus over the last nine months. Not impossible, but not likely, especially given the medical community is not sure if receiving the vaccine will prevent you from contracting COVID.

Deciding whether or not to take the COVID-19 vaccine is and should remain a personal medical decision. The drugs appear safe overall and have proven effective over the short term in human trials. At this point, we are being told that even with the vaccine we will all need to continue “masking up and social distancing.” So, taking the vaccine does not, at least in some minds, change the “recommendation” to wear a mask. You decide how you feel about the efficacy of masks and mass mask mandates. That said, I would think that if we had an effective vaccine, we should start lifting some of these mandates, but that’s just me.

In my opinion, taking the vaccine is not symbolic of leadership, it is a personal medical decision. I do not believe that taking the vaccine is some sort of grand statement, nor do I believe not taking the vaccine is a grand statement. You each need to do your own research, speak to your health provider, and make your choice. As an aside, if you do take the vaccine, it’s not necessary to post it on social media. The virtue signaling/shaming this year is out of hand…

Based on reports that the COVID-19 virus has mutated into a different strain of itself, it does not seem plausible that we will eradicate it from the United States or the planet. To that end, it has been my belief since the beginning, and I hold that same belief today – we need to learn how to live with it. Masks are not the answer, social distancing forever is not the answer, nor is shuttering businesses, killing the economy, or tanking our educational system. The vaccine appears to be a good step in helping to develop a level of herd immunity, along with the hundreds of thousands of people who have recovered from the virus. Let’s be clear, herd immunity does not mean the virus is no longer a factor. All it means is that our ability to fight the virus is improved which will lead to improved outcomes. Additionally, our healthcare system is learning more about the virus so they have a much-improved approach to treatment.

I am not trying to advocate for or against the vaccine. Personally, I think you need to have the information, weigh your options, and decide. As I said earlier, there are some trying to compare the COVID vaccine to those that have successfully eliminated other diseases or viruses. That is misleading at best. Additionally, there is some messaging that states taking the vaccine “is for others, not just for you.” I am not in agreement with that marketing strategy/narrative. The medical decisions you make regarding your health are about you and your family. So, educate yourself and make an informed decision. For CAFMA folks reading this, you can coordinate your vaccination with Chief Niemynski or Engineer Poliakon. They did send an email with the necessary information.

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