Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Understanding COVID-19 and vaccinations

11/2/2021 by Denise Dupras, M.D.

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Dr. Gregory Poland is head of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group. He has spend the past 40 years studying vaccines, their development and use to prevent disease. He has been the chair or member of every committee at the federal level involved with vaccine decision-making. 

He recently gave a virtual presentation to provide an update on COVID-19, what is known about the virus, how containment of the COVID-19 pandemic is progressing, and the role of vaccinations for adults and children. A lot of misinformation is circulating about COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Poland cleared the air to ensure everyone had correct facts. He also addressed misunderstandings and misinterpretations. 

Here is a brief summary of his presentation:

Facts about the pandemic

  • No one thing will end the COVID-19 pandemic. People will continue to need to wash their hands, maintain distance from others, avoid being around those who are sick or exposing others when they are, wear a mask at times, and get vaccinated for COVID-19. 
  • Hospitals are full. Even though these facilities have protective gear for doctors, nurses and others who work there, hospital personnel are getting tired, and more staff are needed in hospitals. 
  • Children are getting sick. In September, 250,000 became ill with COVID-19, and some of them died. 
  • Those who choose not to get vaccinated for COVID-19 are much more likely to become serious ill, be hospitalized, and die of COVID-19 than those who get vaccinated. 
  • The new delta variant is much more contagious than the original alpha version of COVID-19. One sick person can spread the infection to up to six to eight other people. 

Facts about the vaccine

  • No vaccine in history has ever been studied as much as the COVID-19 vaccines. 
  • Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has full Food and Drug Administration approval now, not just emergency use authorization. 
  • Vaccines do best in blocking COVID-19. They are less effective at blocking infection. While you can get infected with COVID-19, you generally do not get seriously ill, and it decreases your risk of dying from COVID-19. 
  • Every vaccine has side effects, but if you balance the benefits of getting vaccinated with COVID-19 against the side effects, the benefits outweigh the generally mild side effects. 

The bottom line is that everyone is in this together, and the only way to end this pandemic is for everyone to do his or her part. While people can exercise their freedom to choose whether to be vaccinated, they are choosing not only for themselves, but for others. Unvaccinated people continue to be sources of infections, allowing COVID-19 to continue developing new variants. 

You can listen to Dr. Poland's full presentation below:


Denise Dupras, M.D., Ph.D., is a general internist in Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson's Division of Community Internal Medicine. She completed her medical and doctorial degrees at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, and her residency in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her interests include medical education and evidence-based medicine.