As people living with diabetes (or caring for someone with diabetes), we know about cost-benefit analysis all too well. Every time we count our carbs and match it with (hopefully) the right amount of insulin, we do so knowing that it will help us feel and perform better for the next several hours. Every time we lace up our sneakers for a workout even though we have other things to do, we do so knowing that it will pay big dividends in terms of our physical and emotional well-being. Every time we fork over another copay for test strips or glucose sensors, we do so knowing that it will provide valuable peace of mind. The list goes on and on.
The “costs” associated with diabetes care – mental energy, time, money, inconvenience, and sometimes pain – are worth it because of the important benefits they bring. Why can’t we apply the same thinking to the coronavirus? Despite an abundance of scientific evidence, far too many people with diabetes (and people in general) continue to defy basic safety and health recommendations… particularly when it comes to receiving the vaccine. More than half of Americans are yet to receive a vaccine despite widespread availability. This came to a head last week when a patient who I’ve cared for and respected for many years, a family man with whom I share many common interests, informed me that he has no intention of getting the vaccine. And I know that there are many people with diabetes out there who share his conviction. So let’s keep politics out of it and take a look at the situation logically.
What are the COSTS of receiving the vaccine? Financially, none. It takes a few minutes to schedule the vaccine at a local clinic, hospital or pharmacy and another 30 minutes or so to actually receive each of the two injections (the shot itself takes two seconds, but they always ask questions beforehand and make you wait 15 minutes afterwards). At worst, the shot itself stings for a couple of seconds. But there are often after-effects: most people feel some dull shoulder pain for a day or so after receiving each shot, and most people feel cold-like symptoms the day after the second shot. Longer and more severe side-effects are extremely rare. There is also the “worry factor” over potential long-term effects the vaccine may produce. Although I can tell you that this is unfounded since vaccines do nothing more than allow the body to mount its own response to the virus – they contain no “live” material that can do any damage to the body.
So what about the BENEFITS? The two most common vaccines, those produced by Moderna and Pfizer, reduce the risk of contracting the virus by approximately 95%. That doesn’t mean you have a 5% chance of coming down with COVID… it means you are 20X more likely to get the virus if you don’t get the vaccine. And in the unlikely chance you do catch the virus, being vaccinated means that the severity and duration of the virus will be significantly less – usually leading to nothing more than mild cold symptoms. Beats the heck out of dying or clinging to life on a ventilator. Then there is the societal benefit: The more people who are vaccinated, the faster (and more safely) we can get back to normal daily life. There is simply less chance of spreading the virus and making others sick when the vast majority of people are vaccinated. And don’t forget about the peace of mind that comes with the vaccine. People who were anxious about going out in public and making face-to-face connections with other people can finally relax. And with less stress and more opportunities physical activity and quality food choices comes… you guessed it… better diabetes management! Circle of life, my friends.
So if you or someone close to you has been hesitant about becoming vaccinated, I hope this helps put things in a slightly different perspective. We care about you and hope you’ll make the right choice.
As always, if there is anything we can do to make your life with diabetes better and easier, please reach out. Enjoy this month’s edition of Diabetes Bites!
The 3rd edition of Gary Scheiner’s Think Like A Pancreas is now available. The new edition features everything that made the first two editions “essential reading” for everyone who takes insulin. Only $18!