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Letter about vaccine hesitancy in Florida draws strong reader reaction | Letters
Here’s what readers are saying in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
A man gets his COVID-19 in May.
A man gets his COVID-19 in May.
Published Jun. 29

Editor’s note: The Tampa Bay Times ran a letter Saturday from a reader explaining why she was hesitant to get the COVID vaccine. Based on the number of rebuttals, many of you appear to disagree with her reasoning. Here’s a sampling of the reaction.

Yes, I’m offended

Why I’m still not ready to get the COVID vaccine | Letters, June 28

The writer of the letter implies that COVID doesn’t warrant a vaccination because its death rate is less than 2%. She ignores the fact that studies, including one of close to 2 million patients who have had the disease, shows that up tp 25% of those who have recovered from COVID have long lasting effects, many of them serious and debilitating such as cardiac disease, lung pathologies, gastral intestinal problems and psychological imbalances including severe depression. I guess the writer would be perfectly happy to have to live — and for the rest of us to live, possibly for the rest of our lives — with a cardiomyopathy provided we simply did not die from it. It has been widely demonstrated that COVID vaccination decreases the number of people who get the disease. The writer says that if her position offends me, that does not make me right. But if there is anything she can do to decrease the aforementioned negative outcomes and chooses not to do so on the basis of only one scientific variable, then yes, her position offends me.

Michael Zwerdling, RN, Palm Harbor

Our (poor) choices have consequences

I read the letter with frustration and dismay. Unlike the letter writer who has no degree in anything except perhaps “common sense from a background of hard knocks,” I am physician. So is my wife, and, proudly, my two older children.

I think we all can agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a phenomenon like nothing anyone alive today had experienced. To trivialize it and imply that we have lived through much worse epidemics (as we have not) and that the mortality rate of this terrible illness is low and therefore acceptable is beyond belief. I guess over 600,000 deaths and a two-year drop in life expectancy attributed to this virus is not enough.

Given the exposure that this letter writer’s opinion received by being published in the paper (sadly appropriate, since her point of view is shared by a significant portion of the population in this state), I believe it is important to clarify certain points. The letter writer expressed frustration about the fact that after the vaccine became available, those vaccinated still needed to wear masks and practice at least some degree of social distancing. Clearly the reason for this is obvious: There was no way to find out in the street who had received or had not received the vaccine. In addition, when a small portion of the population had been vaccinated, although protected they still could transmit the virus to those who were not. So the rules of social distance were obviously necessary. Without a question the implementation of these rules saved many lives.

I am extremely surprised that the letter writer stated that she has religiously received the influenza vaccine for the past 20 years (I commend her for that). The reason why we were all truly responsible to take care of our health and receive this COVID vaccine (which has truly been a blessing as most people would now admit) is because we were dealing with a totally unpredictable illness, which would be very mild on one individual and lethal to the next, even some with no previous medical problems. There was simply no way to detect or project who would be ill enough to die from this terrible condition. The damaging consequences, economic and otherwise, given this uncertainty is known by all of us.

Thanks to the significant portion of the population that chose to do get the vaccine, we have been able to decrease significantly new cases and deaths. Those who have chosen not to receive the vaccine essentially have been taking a comfortable free ride.

The letter writer implies that we should not encourage those who have not received the vaccine to do so. I disagree. As a physician it is my duty to care for my patients and to avoid unnecessary suffering, illness, and death. Clearly and strongly advising patients to receive the vaccine is absolutely appropriate. I wish the letter writer and all these other vaccine hesitants would have seen my son’s face, when he described to me with tears in his eyes his experience as a medical resident in the intensive care unit in Camden, New Jersey during the surge in the spring of 2020, when multiple people, many healthy and young, suffered horrendous deaths from this terrible disease. I can say the same for my daughter, who as an intern in Miami also had recent exposure to intensive care unit patients critically ill and dying unnecessarily from this illness.

Of course no one has the power (or should have the power) to impose any vaccination on anyone. It is a matter of common sense that if we have been blessed enough to be able to develop in such a short time such an incredible tool to attack this terrible disease it would be only reasonable for all of us to receive the vaccine unless there’s a strong reason not to. That is how polio and smallpox were eradicated, at at time when most trusted the medical sciences and their doctor’s advise. Can you imagine the world we would be living in today if the people at that time would have followed a similar behavior like the one we are experiencing now?

Answering to the letter writer’s closing statement, her position does not “offend” me, but it does frustrate me. I agree that decisions about her own health should be by choice, although in this case the choice may affect someone else’s health as well. In any event, there are good choices and bad choices in life. We all have to live with the consequences of those choices.

Jesus L. Penabad, M.D., Tarpon Springs

The writer nailed it

Bravo! Kudos! And thank you to the writer of the letter. Her comments on not rushing blindly to take an experimental vaccine are correctly based on logic and common sense. She accurately asks, “Why is it unreasonable for me to question and use a wait and see approach before injecting myself with a brand new vaccine for a disease most people don’t die from?” Followed by “Anything we do in the name of our own health should be by choice.” To both of those observations I say, Right on!

Colleen Paglen, Treasure Island

Doing our part is patriotic

I found the letter writer’s explanation interesting, but very selfish. The vaccines are the reason things have improved in our country since the COVID outbreak began. In 1944, Americans stormed the beaches at Normandy at much risk. All that is being asked of us now is to get a vaccination. Seems a small price to pay.

Our cases are rising again in Pinellas (up 14% over the last two weeks) because of people like the letter writer who refuse to get vaccinated and may, therefore, be transmitting the virus unknowingly. Ask your doctor about the vaccines. All of mine have taken it. Each of us doing our part to end COVID is the patriotic thing to do.

Chris Core, St. Pete Beach

The unvaccinated are dying

Referencing the long commentary from the reader who will not get vaccinated, the reason I did is because of real life events such as at the Manatee County government building that recently left two workers dead, while their colleague who was vaccinated was not affected at all. I used science and facts to make my decision. To those who choose not to get vaccinated, you are the reason we still have to keep wearing masks.

Diane Pearson, Dunedin