I’m not a anti-vaccine. I’ve been vaccinated against polio, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B. I’m due for a Tdap booster (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and will take it without reservation. Same with the flu shot this Fall.
I’m COVID-19 vaccine-hesitant. Regardless of what the Food and Drug Administration and CDC may say, all the available COVID-19 vaccines are still experimental because we don’t have long-term safety data. And judging from the recent Israeli experience with the Pfizer product, efficacy is also coming into question.
By “long-term data,” I mean at least two or three years comparing experimental groups with control (non-vaccinated) groups. And we need those data for children, pregnant women, and fertile women. Nicki Minaj would say we need studies on male fertility, too (a cousin’s friend got vaccinated, his testicles swelled and he became impotent, then his fiance called off the wedding).
I’ve been working full-time as a hospitalist for the last 20 years. I’ve been admitting and treating COVID-19 patients for the last 18 months. I was a “healthcare hero.” The hospital system in which I work plans to revoke treatment privileges of physicians who are not fully-vaccinated by November 1, 2021. Without such privileges, I can’t work in the hospital. I have seriously considered voluntarily relinquishing privileges or letting the system revoke them. If that happened, here are the options I considered:
- Take a hospitalist job in another system (but all of them where I live have a vaccine mandate)
- Look for a hospitalist job elsewhere, where the vaccine is not mandated
- Take a few months off, hoping a shortage of physicians would induce hospitals to rescind the mandate and allow me to work
- Monetize my blogs
- Write more books (I have several ideas)
- Start podcasting and monetize that
- Work as an office-based internist, working for others or starting my own practice (many employers will have a vaccine mandate)
- Concierge medicine
- Direct Primary Care
- Telemedicine (some employers would still mandate the vaccine)
- Claim the religious exemption (but my hesitancy is all medical/science-based)
- Retiring (BTW, I’m 66-years-old)
I love the work I do, I’m good at it, and it pays well.
I have health insurance via my employer. Although I could go on Medicare for my health insurance, I have several dependents that are insured through my employer. If I took several months off or retired, perhaps my dependents could get insurance if my very smart and capable wife took a job. She was offered a job that would pay 1/4 of what I make, and would require two hours of commuting, five days a week. We have some debts that must be paid.
I took the Pfizer/BioNTech jab on Sept 15, partly because I couldn’t get excited about any of the options above. Second dose will be Oct 6. I’m ambivalent about my decision. It’s practical, but I wonder if I simply lack the courage to take the freedom-fighter position of letting the system revoke my privileges and then facing the consequences. I believe adults should have the freedom to take or not take the vaccine after weighing the pros and cons. If I have a serious adverse effect from the vaccine, I hope it’s death and not long-term disability and being a burden to my wife and children. I’ll probably be OK. Pray for me.
Steve Parker, M.D.