‘Please tell everyone how important it is to get vaccinated’

A COVID update in honor of the late Mel Reeves

This week Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield III’s son Charles E. Crutchfield IV interviews his father for the MSR on the most recent COVID-19 developments.

MSR: What is the main message about COVID that you want to share with the readers?

CC: Dying from COVID is now optional. Get vaccinated and boosted today; 99% of people who die from COVID are not vaccinated.

MSR: Why is this message so important?

CC: It was the last assignment I got from my good friend and MSR editor Mel Reeves before he died from COVID. He asked me to write a special column: “Please tell everyone how important it is to get vaccinated.” 

We spoke by telephone from his hospital bed as he struggled to breathe. He told me that he hoped that my words would give more credibility to the vaccination efforts as a physician. Finally, he told me to have my son interview me for this column.

 MSR: In your opinion, why are people, especially People of Color, reluctant to get vaccinated?

CC: It is indeed a problem in the Black, Indigenous, Latino, Somali, Hmong, and other communities of color. For example, there have been over one million COVID cases and over 11,000 deaths in Minnesota. People-of-Color have higher death rates. 

Although admirable, only 51% of Blacks in Minnesota have been fully vaccinated and boosted. There is a lot of misinformation out there, but in my experience, after having many in-depth discussions with my patients, I find the genuine reason to be fear, the absolute fear of having something unknown and foreign injected into them when they feel fine. 

This, to me, makes sense. The key is to determine the best way to overcome this fear by educating them on the risks and benefits of not getting vaccinated. 

MSR: Who should get vaccinated?

CC: Everyone who is five years of age and older should get vaccinated. 

This includes women who are pregnant, women who have recently been pregnant, and women who are nursing.

Remember, you should get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect yourself, your family, and your loved ones from becoming seriously ill from COVID. Getting vaccinated may not completely prevent you from getting COVID, but it will keep you from dying. Unfortunately, 99% of those who die are NOT VACCINATED. 

Also, vaccinated people shed the virus less, protecting those around them. Hopefully, the FDA will approve vaccines for those under age five soon. Vaccination is the most important public health action that we can take to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

MSR: Are COVID vaccines safe and effective?

CC: The technology used to produce the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) has been in development for over 15 years. The current mRNA vaccines are safe and effective, especially in preventing severe illness and death. 

From December 2020 to December 2021, just under 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S. with an excellent safety profile. However, 99% of people who die from COVID are not vaccinated. This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the vaccines. 

MSR: There still seems to be misinformation about COVID vaccines. Any comments about this?

CC: Yes. The vaccines do not cause infertility, do not contain microchips, are not activated by 5G, will not alter your DNA, don’t contain latex or preservatives, and do not contain any live virus. 

 MSR: How do the vaccines work?

CC: The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. They are now the preferred vaccines. 

mRNA vaccines cause cells to make a harmless piece of the outer surface of COVID-19. Our immune system will then recognize this protein piece and block infections from the virus with the protein piece in the future. 

MSR: Why should people get vaccinated with new variants like omicron appearing?

CC: This is precisely why we need to vaccinate. The only way for a new variant to spread is to transmit to other people. If we block transmission through vaccination, we block new variants from developing. Additionally, vaccines still provide excellent and partial protection against the new variants. 

MSR: Can people get the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine at the same time?

CC: Yes. Get each in separate arms or in the same arm, three inches apart.

MSR: Should someone get vaccinated even if they have already had COVID-19?

CC: Absolutely. Research has shown that immunity in a person with COVID falls remarkably at 90 days. Therefore, most people with COVID should get vaccinated at day 90. Some doctors are even recommending a vaccination at 30 or 60 days. 

MSR: Do vaccinated people need a booster?

CC: Indeed. Without a booster, the protection from the original vaccine drops very, very low. Getting a booster is essential for continued protection. In the future, we will not even call it a booster. It will become part of the recommended series. At this time, almost everyone over age 12 should get a booster. 

MSR: I hear there are new medicines to treat COVID. Why should anyone get vaccinated if they can just take medication if they get COVID?

CC: Great question. As a doctor, this is just one more tool to fight COVID. The key is to prevent getting COVID, or COVID with devastating side effects that can cause death in the first place. It is like saying, why wear safety equipment if we can put a cast on a broken arm? Let’s focus on keeping the arm from getting broken. 

MSR: Should immunocompromised people get vaccinated?

CC: Yes. Immunocompromised people will need an extra vaccination. In addition, there are other medications like Evusheld that can be used. Check with your doctor for details. 

MSR: What should people expect when they get vaccinated?

CC: Many people who get vaccinated feel just fine. Some will experience a mildly sore arm at the injection site. About 50% of people will experience cold/flu-like symptoms that last 1-3 days. 

MSR: If a person gets vaccinated, do they still need to wear a mask?

CC: Yes. Preferably, wear a KN95 of N95 Mask. After vaccination, masks are the second-most important thing that we can do to break this pandemic. To see a video that shows the protective value of maks, published in the New England Journal of medicine, watch this: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2007800.

MSR: What final points do you want to leave with the readers?

  • Dying from COVID is now optional.
  • Get vaccinated and/or boosted today.
  • Vaccination is the most important public health action that we can do to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Vaccinations are not effective without boosters.
  • If you need spiritual advice, talk to your minister. If you need medical advice about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor and pharmacist.
  • Continue to wear KN95 or N95 masks.
  • Maintain social distances.
  • Wash your hands appropriately (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice).
  • If you are sick, stay home and get tested.
  • If you are unsure about getting vaccinated or need more information, visit the informational page: CrutchfieldDermatology.com/COVID.

MSR: How does someone locate a vaccination center?

CC: Crutchfield Dermatology is offering free vaccinations. Call 651-209-3600 for an appointment. Also, to find a free COVID-19 vaccine near you visit vaccines.gov.

Charles E. Crutchfield IV is a senior at Saint Thomas Academy High School. He is an academic Eagle award (GPA 4.0) recipient. He is the president of the Martin Luther King Society. He enjoys baseball and basketball and is currently exploring several college options.