This interview was conducted in the summer of 2021, prior to booster recommendations and organizational decisions regarding employee vaccination status.
Benjamin Klausing, MD, Infectious Diseases Physician, Baptist Health Louisville
Why did you decide to receive the COVID-19 vaccine? As part of my job, I take care of COVID-19 patients. One of the fears that I had was, despite wearing the right equipment, I would take the virus home. My wife is pregnant with our first child, and the last thing I wanted to do was bring the virus home. Also, my family, like most families, has family members with chronic health conditions, and I want to do everything I can to keep them safe.
What would you like to say to those are who hesitant to receive the vaccine? I think it’s okay to be hesitant. I think it’s okay to want more information. I think it’s okay to say, “Hey this is new, I want to look into this.” If I could reassure people, I would say this has been a rigorously tested vaccine, and it has gone through many trials and protocols to make sure it’s safe and effective. It’s one of the best medical breakthroughs we have had during my career and during my lifetime.
I would encourage you to talk to people who’ve had the vaccine and ask them how they did. For all the scary rumors you hear, the vaccine is actually very well tolerated and safe and effective.
What would you say to those who are worried about the emergency approval status? I think we hear “emergency approval” and we automatically think steps were skipped, that we didn’t do something we should have done. That just wasn’t the case. This was brought to market in very quick order because the government and taxpayers financed the production. These resources allowed pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers to have unlimited resources to do things that would normally take years. It wasn’t that steps were skipped. This vaccine went thru the same protocol as any other drug on the market right now.
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What would you say to those who are worried about possible vaccine side effects? In the U.S., we’ve given over 200 million doses now. The proof is in the pudding. People do very well and we see tremendous benefit. You may experience mild side effects; that’s just your immune system working. It’s more likely you would have a significant problem driving your car from here to the airport than having a serious reaction to the vaccine. There’s a lot of good to suggest the vaccine is safe and effective in both medical trials and the real world.
What would you say to those who think it may not matter if they don’t get the vaccine? In some regards, the world is on fire because of COVID-19. If you are trying to put out a fire, it is going to take everyone to take a pail and extinguish that fire. It takes all of us to chip in to do our part.
What made you feel safe to get the vaccine? I have the privilege and benefit of familiarity with medical studies. I’ve been reading them for 15 years or more. I was very impressed with the vaccine studies. I also felt the process was open and transparent. The world’s vaccine experts met and discussed this, and grilled the pharmaceutical companies. That was made public and available to read and see. I knew the mild side effects I did experience, achy in arm and fatigued, were just signs the immune system was working to produce immunity to COVID-19.
What were your worries? My initial worries were that the vaccine may not be as effective as hoped and advertised. I knew it was highly effective in the clinical trials, but now, we have significant, real world data that shows it’s just as effective as advertised, and very effective in preventing infections, hospitalizations, and passing on infections.
What’s the significance of this vaccine to you? This vaccine is our ticket to return to normal. If we can imagine a July 4th holiday with fireworks shooting off and gathering around the grill or going to a stadium and having a hot dog and peanuts without a mask, that could be our future, that could be our return to normal. It’s going to take everyone chipping in to reach that goal.
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