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Local voices on COVID-19 A World of Worry: Feeling Anxiety about the COVID-19 Vaccines?

Jun 23, 2021 10:50AM ● By Editor

Photo: ABC News

By Hartley Newell-Acero, Outreach Coordinator for Sawtooth Mountain Clinic

This article is the eighth and final article in a series intended to give some local perspective on issues about COVID-19. They are also intended to help readers make an informed decision about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Over the last year and a half, we watched with growing alarm as a new virus impacted the lives of every person on earth. Even those of us that have been fortunate enough to escape the worst effects of physical infection have faced the fear that spreads alongside the virus: anxiety about losing our jobs, the gloom of being isolated, and the gnawing dread of our loved ones or ourselves becoming ill. For some people, the vaccines that offer protection from these outcomes have themselves become a cause for concern.

This is a reasonable response. The complexity of the disease, the sophistication of our immune system, and the intricacies of vaccine development are all topics that most of us just don’t have the background to fully grasp. It makes sense to be hesitant about things that we can’t really understand.

What can we do when we find ourselves feeling anxious about the COVID-19 vaccines?  How can we make decisions that will make us both feel, and actually be, safer? Here’s how we can bring ourselves some calm and clarity:

1.     Start with organizing and analyzing your thoughts.  

Identify what you’re most anxious about and seek out information from reputable resources.  Some things to keep in mind as you do this:

a.     Anecdotes don’t equal evidence. A case in point: one day a woman named Ann Hodges was napping on her couch. After she woke, she discovered a painful, deep bruise on her thigh. Is this evidence that napping is dangerous?  Nope. Her bruising was the result of being struck by a meteor that came through her roof. (It’s true!) Without the complete story, we can draw wrong conclusions.

b.     Trustworthy sources cite their sources. If someone is making health claims, they should always be able and willing to show you “the receipts.” Evaluate information by applying the “CRAAP” test. Scrutinize a source’s Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.  For more tips on how you can improve your ability to separate fact from fiction and make stronger decisions, visit the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic website and read the August 2020 “Topic of the Month” newsletter, Informational Winnowing

2.     Then weigh the “relative risk.”

Every day, we make calculations to balance the inherent risks in our lives, we just don’t stop to think about it very often.  Driving in the city?  Potentially risky, but familiar, so we cruise on.  Being the first out on the ice in the winter?  Some risk, but we’ve stayed dry this far, so we load up the gear. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Very low risk, but new, so it might feel “iffy.”  Getting infected with COVID? Hopefully not much risk, but then again, maybe a whole lot. Why roll that dice when the danger of severe illness can be eliminated?

3.     Finally, end with your heart.

One of the benefits of living in a small community is that we have opportunities to connect with one another in different roles. Think for a moment about the team here in Cook County that has been encouraging you to get vaccinated: the employees of Cook County Public Health and your medical providers at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. They’re also friends and neighbors that you know and trust, and they will tell you the truth about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. They’ve seen the research; they can accurately interpret it, and they have chosen the lowest-risk, highest benefit option for themselves and their families: vaccination. All they want is the same protection for you.

There’s plenty to be worried about in today’s world. The overall safety and effectiveness of vaccines are not on that list. They may not be perfect, but we can’t let perfection become the enemy of the good, and especially not the enemy of the truly remarkable.  

If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 or the vaccines that protect against it, feel free to reach out and share them with the providers at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 218-387-2330. They’re here for you – together through life. 

Hartley Newell-Acero has a master’s degree in Behavioral Science/Fitness & Human Performance, and is the Outreach Coordinator for Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. She lives in Grand Marais and is the proud mother of two grown children.

This is the last article in our Q&A series dedicated to the COVID-19 vaccines. If you have questions going forward about the vaccines, we encourage you to reach out to your medical provider for answers.

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