Great news: Dying from COVID is now optional

Courtesy of Dr. Crutchfield, III Dr. Crutchfield getting vaccine shot.

The good news

Dying from COVID in the United States is now optional. This is because 99% of the people who currently die from COVID are NOT vaccinated. The vaccine is readily available across the country. If you get vaccinated, you will not die from COVID. This is essential information for the African American community.

The bad news

Eighty million eligible people in the U.S. are not vaccinated. A disproportionate number of these are African Americans. As a result, the disparity in death rates is widening. Because of not getting vaccinated (vaccine hesitance), Blacks are dying at a higher rate than other groups in this country.

In fact, reports indicate that only 38% of Blacks have had one dose of vaccine. Considering that two doses are required for appropriate immunity, the percent of fully vaccinated Blacks is estimated to be 32%. 

The summer started out promising for the battle against SARS-CoV-2. Unfortunately, now the Delta variant is causing a surge in the country. Death rates are up. Hospitalizations are up. Hospitalized patients are younger. Hospital ICUs are at or almost at capacity around the country.

The Delta variant is affecting more children and affecting children more severely. The European Union has taken the U.S. off the safe country list. Some experts think that the Delta variant is so contagious that the worst is yet to come when it comes to the U.S. fighting SARS-CoV-2.  

Names

For the sake of accuracy and clarity, the name of the virus that causes the disease is SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).

The name of the disease that SARS-CoV-2 causes is COVID-19 (coronavirus disease). 

Numbers

SARS-CoV-2 has infected 220 million people; worldwide, 4.5 million people have died from COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 has infected 40 million in the United States; 655,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States.

In 2020, COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. (only behind heart disease and cancer). COVID-19 was virtually unheard of the previous year. That means that one in every 488 people in the United States has died from COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 has infected 650,000 people in Minnesota. Approximately 8,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Minnesota.

With the new Delta variant, 150,000 new infections occur daily in the United States with COVID-19. Currently, over 1,500+ people die daily in the United States from COVID-19. 

The vaccines

There are currently three vaccines available: Pfizer, Moderna, and the Johnson and Johnson. 

  • 68% of Minnesotans are fully vaccinated.
  • 39% of African Americans in Minnesota are fully vaccinated.
  • 52% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.
  • 32% of African Americans in the United States are fully vaccinated. Impressively,  51% of African Americans in MInnesota are vaccinated. This far exceeds that national average, but more is needed for population immunity. The high vaccination rate of Blacks in Minnesota is due in part to the strong advocacy of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians and its’ individual members, with the cooperative efforts of the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder newspaper. 

Vaccine schedules 

Pfizer: two shots, 21 days apart

Moderna: two shots, 28 days apart

Johnson and Johnson: one shot with a recommended booster. The precise timing will be announced soon.

Vaccine schedules for immunocompromised 

Your doctor will tell you if you are immunocompromised, but generally this includes cancer patients, patients receiving chemotherapy, transplant patients, and patients receiving certain medications or with certain medical conditions.

Pfizer: three shots (note the third shot is recommended as a routine series of three for immunocompromised patients and is not considered a booster)

Moderna: three shots (note the third shot is recommended as a standard series of three for immunocompromised patients and is not considered a booster)

Johnson and Johnson: one shot with a recommended booster(s); the number of boosters and schedule to be announced soon

Common questions and answers

Q: What do vaccines do?

A: They teach/allow your body to recognize, attack and neutralize viruses so they don’t get the best of you. In some cases, they can prevent deadly viruses from killing you. 

Q: Are the vaccines safe?

A: Doctors and scientists around the world have confirmed that the vaccine is both safe and very effective. It has been used in hundreds of millions of people with great protective results. With the new Delta variant, it is more important than ever that we all get vaccinated. 

Q: What is herd immunity?

A: As Dr. Corbett, virologist and lead vaccine developer, suggests, the better term is “population immunity.” It is when a large percentage of the population is immune to a disease. This will often protect the other members of the community.

Population immunity for COVID-19 is estimated to be about 85%. Currently, only 52% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Unless more people get vaccinated, we will not achieve population (herd) immunity.

Q: What about vaccine mandates?

A: Since the Pfizer vaccine has attained full FDA approval, many businesses, schools, federal agencies and colleges require workers, teachers and students to be vaccinated. It is very reasonable to create a safe environment for workers and students because we are now battling the most transmissible variant that we have seen to date. This is even more important in areas with people who can’t get vaccinated, like schools with children under the age of 12. 

Q: I have one shot, and they told me I need two shots. Is that really the case?

A: Absolutely. The second shot can double and even triple your protection. So get the second shot, even if it is beyond the time you were told. 

Q: I heard that the vaccine would hurt my baby if I am pregnant. Is that true?

A: No. On the contrary. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have stated that they recommend the vaccine for all pregnant women and mothers who are nursing.

Q: How do vaccines work?

A: They allow your immune system to recognize organisms that cause disease and attack and neutralize them before they can cause problems. The mRNA vaccines do not contain any viruses. 

Q: Can I wait for herd immunity?

A: Probably not. It may take 1-2 years. If everyone waits for population immunity, we will never get there. It is not a matter of if you will encounter the virus; it is only a matter of when. If you do, don’t you want the have the best protection available? If you were going into a street fight against a deadly opponent, would you want to be wearing only your underwear or a steel suit of armor?

Q: I heard that the virus does not affect children, so why should they get vaccinated?

A: COVID-2019 does affect fewer children than adults. Unfortunately, some people have confused “less” with “none.”

Many children have died from COVID-2019 and can be affected by a severe inflammatory condition that affects many organs. The new Delta variant is affecting more children more severely—an even better reason for the vaccination of children. 

Q: Why aren’t there vaccines for children?

A: They are currently being studied. It is expected that vaccines for children six years to 12 will be approved by the end of 2021. The vaccine for children ages six months to six years should be available about two months after that. 

Q: Will I need a booster vaccine later?

A: Yes. All vaccinated people will probably need a booster shot eight months after their second shot. The FDA and CDC are currently evaluating the timing recommendations.  In the future, boosters may be given five months after the second shot. The FDA is currently reviewing the shortened timeline. In the future, a series of three shots for mRNA vaccines and two shots for the Johnson and Johnson may become the standard recommended series.

Q: I heard that the government injected syphilis into Black people about 30 years ago in the Tuskegee experiment. So how do I know this is not another governmental experiment?

A: This was a program that was almost 100 years ago. It started in 1932. They did not give anyone syphilis. They only observed those who had syphilis. The tragedy was they offered them no treatment to see what would happen. The U.S. government sponsored it, and the behavior was both horrific and despicable.

Current vaccines go through several layers of approval, including committees sensitive to and containing persons of color. The vaccine is given to all people, not just people of color. This is essential information for the African American community where the full vaccination rate is only 32% and all other Communities of Color.

Q: I heard that Bill Gates is having microchips injected into people with the vaccine. Is this true?

A: Complete nonsense.

Q: I heard that the vaccine would make you infertile. Is this true?

A: Again, complete nonsense. There are over 300 million people around the world who have been vaccinated. None have become infertile from the vaccine. 

Q: I heard that the vaccine was developed too fast. We don’t know the long-term effects of the vaccine. Is the vaccine safe?

It is both safe and effective. Over one billion doses have been given to hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The technology that helped develop the vaccine was already in place, allowing faster development than the old vaccines.

It went through all the FDA safety and efficacy steps that all other FDA-approved medicines have. In fact, it was developed by an African American doctor, who took the vaccine and recommends the vaccine for all people including members of the African American community. 

Q: Some people on the internet say I can take a horse medicine called Ivermectin to prevent getting COVID-19. Will this help me?

A: Sometimes Ivermectin is used to treat conditions in humans, but it is prevalent in veterinary medicine as a treatment for worms. There are no studies that support its effectiveness in preventing COVID-19. However, poison control centers are receiving record calls from people who are getting poisoned by this medicine. Do not take Ivermectin. 

Q: There are many people on social media who say the vaccine is not safe. Is that correct?

A: Just because a person can type on a computer does not mean that they are medically knowledgeable. The surgeon general has issued a strong warning against misinformation found on the internet, especially social media. If you need accurate health information, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

For example, many people who were anti-vaccination are now sick in the hospital. To a person, they all say that they wish they had been vaccinated and are recommending vaccination to their family and friends. 

Q: Many religious leaders, including some pastors, are telling their members not to get vaccinated. What should I do with this information?

I respect my pastor, but when I need spiritual advice, I don’t ask my auto mechanic. By the same reasoning, when you need accurate health information, you should talk to your personal physician or pharmacist.  

The Mayo Clinic has recently conducted an excellent virtual public town hall forum on “Mistrust in the COVID-19 vaccine in the African American Community”. It features Dr. Corbett, an African American who was one of the lead developers of the COVID-19 vaccine. I, Charles E. Crutchfield, III, MD, was also one of the panelists.

Five of the most medically knowledgeable and trustworthy people concerning COVID-19 are Dr. Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, CNN Medical Editor Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr.Kizzmekia Corbett, developer of the vaccine. Information from these four people and other helpful information on vaccination, including essential patient testimonials, can be found at: www.CrutchfieldDermtology.com/Covid.

The bottom line

Get vaccinated!

You do not have to die from COVID-19. Of people who are currently dying from COVID, 99% are NOT vaccinated. Likewise, 90% of hospitalized patients are NOT vaccinated. Like the celebrity Wanda Sykes said, “If you decide to go to Spain and run with the bulls and get a horn up your backside, that’s on you!”

Vaccines are readily available across the United States. Getting vaccinated will benefit you by preventing you from getting severe disease that can hospitalize and kill you. It will also benefit you by lessening your ability to transmit it to other people around you.

If we limit transmission, we will restrict new variants from developing, which helps everyone. The additional community benefit is that if we reach population (herd) immunity, we can resume our normal, everyday activities and enjoy life as we did before the pandemic. 

Practice good hygiene and disease mitigation techniques. Wear masks, wash hands every time with soap and a good lather for at least 20 seconds. Clean shared surfaces regularly.

I also have come to understand that there is another reason for not wanting the vaccine. When I ask carefully, many patients have told me that “I am afraid of having something foreign injected into me.” I get it. I really do. It is a scary thought.

The important thing is to focus on the fact that 99% of the people dying from COVID-19 are not vaccinated. Vaccination has been given safely to hundreds of millions of people. Vaccines have changed the world we live in and our lives.

Think about how great other vaccines have served us. Can you imagine living in a world with smallpox, polio, and other such terrible diseases? Without vaccines, our world would be a much worse place to live in.

I have received three vaccines, and I am fine. I have had my family and children vaccinated, and they are also just fine. I would never recommend something to a patient that I would not recommend to my family.

You may not be ready to get vaccinated today, but think about it. Talk to knowledgeable people and to people you trust. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist. When you are ready to get vaccinated, we are all here, ready to help. Just ask. 

Vaccination will keep you out of the hospital. Vaccination will keep you from dying. 

We are offering free COVID-19 vaccinations at Crutchfield Dermatology. Feel free to call 651-209-3600, and you can get vaccinated the same day. You can also visit Vaccines.gov to find a vaccination location nearest to you. 

Getting vaccinated is good for your health, your family’s health, and our communities’ health.

In America, dying from COVID-19 is now optional. 

About Charles Crutchfield III MD

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of biology at Carleton College. He also has a private practice, Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, MN. He received his MD and Master’s Degree in molecular biology and genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Minnesota Medicine recognized Dr. Crutchfield as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. Dr. Crutchfield specializes in skin-of-color and has been selected by physicians and nurses as one of the leading dermatologists in Minnesota for the past 18 years. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations and president of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians. He can be reached at CrutchfieldDermatology.com or by calling 651-209-3600.

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