I want to talk about an approach to the COVID-19 vaccines which I have heard no one talk about. As of July 26, 2021, there have been 34 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 610,000 people have died. In Tennessee, we have had 867,000 of our citizens test positive for COVID-19 and we have had 12,580 deaths. Those are just the facts. The most effective ways to avoid infection with COVID-19 is to:
1. Have already had it and recovered (now immune to it) or
2. To receive the highly effective COVID-19 vaccine (three different vaccines are approved for use in the United States). This is not a political issue. This is a humanity issue, a relationship issue, and a community issue.
Viruses have been around since the beginning of time, and they will still be here long after we are all gone. We are surrounded by them all day, every day. And yet most of them do us no harm. Viruses can’t live (or can’t live long) outside of a host. The host can be a bacterium, an animal, or a human, just to name a few. A virus’s main job is to make sure it can reproduce, much like human’s main job is to make sure we reproduce so our species can carry on through time. A virus reproduces by invading a host (infection) and “hijacking” the host’s genetic equipment so it can reproduce and move on to another host and reproduce again. The host is not okay with this “hijacking,” so the host makes its own counterattack to get rid of the virus. This counterattack is carried out by the immune system which allows us to fight off invaders like viruses, bacteria and even cancer.
A lot of times our immune system will remember something, like a virus, which has attacked it before and will have already launched a counterattack even before the virus invades. This is why people who have already had and recovered from COVID-19 are unlikely to get it again – they are immune. Vaccines, like the three we have for COVID-19, “trick” our immune system into mounting the counterattack on the virus even though we have not previously been infected and built up our own immunity – that’s it! That’s how it works. And so far, I have managed to not say a word about Democrats, Republicans, Biden, Trump, or Fauci.
Viruses don’t just sit back and admit defeat because the host has figured out a way to defend against it. Viruses are just like your favorite sports team. They get beat and they make some changes and attack again. COVID-19 has done just that. It changes to survive – just like we all did when we went from our addiction to recovery. We change to survive.
The most recent change in COVID-19 resulted in what is being called the “Delta Variant”, which means it’s the original COVID-19 virus with some changes to help it survive. It now has the ability to spread more easily than the original. If it can spread more easily, it has a better chance of surviving.
Luckily, the vaccines are effective against this “changed” version of COVID-19. If we can get enough people who have had COVID-19 and recovered or who have had the vaccine, we can cut off the options that COVID-19 has to spread and thus eliminate the opportunities it has to change again and cause even more problems. In a sense, by infection and vaccine, we cut off places that COVID-19 can live and potentially change and become even worse.
I look at vaccines as a recovery principle that I have tried to live out for over 17 years. That is, to get outside of myself and do something for someone else. When I can do that, I am in a good place in my life. I am relatively young and healthy, so were I to get COVID-19, I would likely not get very sick, and I would be unlikely to die. So, in theory, I could just go about my life and not get the vaccine.
However, my next-door neighbor is 75 years old and has had cancer and chemotherapy and therefore has a weakened immune system. If he were to get COVID-19, he would be likely to get very sick and even die. By getting the vaccine, I do not allow COVID-19 to live and change in me and I can help protect my next-door neighbor. I can feel good about that!
Every major religious text in the world – the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the Quran (Islam), Śruti (Hinduism), and the Torah (Judaism) all have this in common – Love your neighbor. By getting vaccinated, I am living a vital recovery principle (getting outside of myself) and I am loving my neighbor. I feel this is the correct approach to the COVID-19 vaccine. It is not about self – it is about humanity, community, and relationship.
Stephen D. Loyd, M.D.
August 3rd, 2021