MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Fear, the COVID vaccine

By Dr. Jeannine Hatt
Special to the Herald Democrat
Jeanine Hatt

Have you had your COVID vaccine? Although there are more than enough vaccines available to fully immunize every man, woman and eligible child in our country, almost half of all Americans have not had even one dose. In Texas, the number of unvaccinated is even higher. And though the numbers of active cases are falling in our country, it is still here, people of all ages and health status are still dying from COVID’s complications. Importantly, COVID is increasing in other parts of the world, including some countries that are our close neighbors. Why are almost half of all Americans not yet vaccinated against this deadly disease?

There are usually 3 different groups among the unvaccinated. One small group has just not found the time to get it. The second group, especially the young, think they are at low risk though hundreds of children and youth have died from the disease and thousands have been hospitalized. The large third group is much more complicated and includes those who have resisted because of fear and mistrust. Fear is a normal human response, especially when something is new. Unfortunately, the circulation of misinformation has increased fear and mistrust.

One of the more common fears is that the vaccine was developed ‘too fast’. COVID vaccine development in the US went through all the usual and in some studies more rigorous trials. There was already a lot known about developing the types of vaccines needed against this type of virus and several companies were efficiently competing with each other. As a result, the vaccines seemed to be produced at ‘warp speed’ which, again, raised fear and mistrust.

In spite of the data showing that the danger of COVID is so much greater than the risk of the vaccine, many are fearful of side effects. So far, serious effects have been shown to be extremely rare. Because the vaccine proteins dissolve and disappear from the body in a short period of time, staying just long enough to train the body’s immune system to recognize and kill any invading virus, it cannot cause any side effects months or years later.

As a pediatrician, mother and grandmother, I deeply care about the health of children and their parents and grandparents. I and all of my family have been vaccinated, and it is making a positive difference in our lives. When I think about what I want to tell families who fear these vaccines, I also want to share my personal feelings and experiences.

My adult children and I no longer have to fear ending up on a ventilator in an ICU due to this dreadful virus. We are going to be able to have a real family reunion this summer. We cannot wait to hug each other and not fear causing illness. My husband and I have been able to have dinner with friends, go to restaurants without masks and are seeing more businesses thriving in our community. My oldest grandchild is so excited that she and her close friends are almost old enough to get vaccinated so they can start having sleepovers and other social activities that were forbidden before. Being able to regain some semblance of normal is taking away the feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression that so many of us have experienced.

Again, fear is a normal human emotion, and, at times, can protect us from danger. But do not let unfounded fears take freedom and joy from your life when it really is not necessary. The best source of further information is from your trusted physician. If you have a fear of the vaccine, sit down and explain that to your doctor. I think you may leave feeling less anxious and maybe, with a vaccine in your arm.

Dr. Jeannine Hatt is a pediatrician who has served the children of Texoma since 198. She is affiliated with TexomaCare Pediatrics and on staff at Texoma Medical Center. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and supports the work and policies they promote in the US and globally. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.