Dr. Kevin McCurry Commentary: Protect Yourself, Friends and Family With COVID-19 Vaccine


Greetings, fellow citizens.

We have all been through a very tough year and a half dealing with the pandemic. We are now close to emerging out of this and soon to be returning back to normal activity.

This is all very welcome news.

However, today I am writing to ask all of you who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to consider getting the vaccine. I know you surely are aware that the pandemic is waning, including in Washington state. This is due to a number of factors, including the excellent job of masking and distancing Americans have done, the natural course of pandemics and the rollout of several very effective COVID-19 vaccines.

Despite the downturn in cases, we are still seeing new cases, including those requiring hospitalization and some in the intensive care unit. Those requiring hospitalization invariably have not been vaccinated, despite the widespread availability of free vaccinations.   

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding vaccines relating to quality of research, length of testing, association with certain side effects and on and on.

In general, these vaccines are quite safe and very effective and have been significantly tested before roll out. Since then, hundreds of millions of vaccines have been provided with excellent results of 91% effectiveness in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations.

There are of course some reports of post vaccination positive COVID-19 tests, but that is to be expected because the vaccines are  91% effective and not 100% effective. Despite that, most of those cases are very mild and do not require hospitalization, and there have been no deaths to my knowledge.

Recently, the state of Massachusetts found 4,000 cases of positive COVID-19 tests after vaccinating nearly 4,000,000 people. As of April 30, 101 million people were fully vaccinated in the U.S. and there were 10,262 breakthrough cases. This is consistent with 91% effectiveness.

After vaccination, most people have minor side effects, if any, such as arm pain or a red rash on the arm. Occasionally some people have fevers, chills and sweats for 24 hours after the second vaccine, typically with Moderna more than Pfizer. In the U.S., we now have reached a 70% threshold for those over 30 who have received at least one vaccination dose. As of June 22, nearly 180 million people have been given at least one dose in the United States, and over 150 million have been fully vaccinated. Additionally, in the U.S., 27 million people under 30 have been vaccinated with good results.

There is some concern about pericarditis and myocarditis linked to the vaccinations in children and young adults. As of June 11, there have been nearly 500 cases of myocarditis/pericarditis, but only 323 of them met the definition of being related to a vaccine.

It is estimated that one in 50,000 vaccine recipients in people under 39 may develop heart inflammation in the form of pericarditis or myocarditis. There have been no deaths in those cases so far.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently did acknowledge that there is a link between this heart inflammation and COVID-19 vaccines. These cases are typically quite mild although sometimes they were monitored in an intensive care unit. The cases of myocarditis and pericarditis associated with COVID-19 vaccines are typically much milder than cases of myocarditis associated with COVID-19 MISC, which is multi inflammatory syndrome in children due to COVID-19.

Those COVID-19-associated cases of heart inflammation tend to be much more severe than the vaccine-related cases. In general, epidemiologists, vaccine experts and pediatricians are still strongly advising vaccination in youths in spite of the low rate of heart inflammation. As I mentioned, the myocarditis and pericarditis related to COVID-19 vaccines is fairly mild and usually goes away within a few days, and sometimes with just rest.

Children typically do not pass COVID-19 to one another and most of the time have contracted COVID-19 from adults.

This is another reason why adults should strongly consider getting the vaccination. There are many other reasons to consider vaccination, including your own health risk, which may put you at greater danger of having severe COVID-19 should you get the virus. As many of you know, those risks include obesity, hypertension, underlying lung disease, heart disease, immunocompromised status, such as chronic steroid use, cancer, etc.

Other reasons for considering COVID vaccinations include your own proximity to loved ones and friends who may be at high risk. Another perspective to consider would be the impact having COVID-19 or even just being exposed to COVID-19 would have on you personally, such as undergoing 10 to 14 days of quarantine, or isolation should you have COVID-19. 

Given everything we’ve been through in the last year and a half, having to go into isolation or quarantine can have a significant impact on work, school and personal finances.

These are all good reasons to consider the COVID-19 vaccination, but in my opinion most of all, the greatest reason to consider a vaccination is your concern for yourself and people around you who you love and cherish.

If you still have questions but maybe now you have opened the door to the possibility of getting a vaccine, please speak to your doctor or other health care provider about your concerns.


Dr. Kevin W. McCurry is the chief medical officer and emergency room staff physician at Arbor Health Morton Hospital.