Why I trust the data
There is an abundance of data and information—and misinformation—surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccine. For the general public, it might be hard to understand what the data actually mean or even trust the information being presented.
As a physician, I rely upon peer-reviewed journals to make the best-informed decisions about my patients and implement my knowledge and experience as a medical professional accordingly. Created by scientists and physicians, peer reviews are vital tools that present an even deeper exploration into the studies of different disease processes and provide me with the optics of how a group of people are experiencing a disease as a whole.
Through this lens, I’m able to decide whether I want to endorse the use of a medication, or wait until there is another review with more information. For example, I like to see if a blind study was involved and the number of patients who participated, which can affect the overall outcome and accuracy of results.
For the COVID-19 vaccine, I looked to the works of virologist Dr. Kizzy Corbett, who was part of the clinical trials for the vaccine. Seeing how strong, robust, and accurate her work was provided me with my initial layer of trust. I then looked at how the studies were performed, and made certain they included all races, ages and ethnicities, and also that they were blind studies — meaning they included participants who didn’t know whether they were receiving the vaccine or a placebo. (In addition, mRNA vaccines were studied well past the beginning of the pandemic, which many people are completely unaware of. The history of mRNA vaccines and the way the trials were performed helped me trust that the vaccine would be effective.)
I’ve also used data I’ve found in specific studies to make decisions for my pediatric patients. In the beginning of the pandemic, we thought that children were rarely affected by coronavirus. A study I read helped shine light on why we first thought this, and why we are now seeing an uptick in pediatric cases: The study noted that when the pandemic hit, schools and daycares were closed. With so many children being quarantined in their homes, we were unable to collect accurate data in order to find out a child’s level of transmission and symptomatology. Now, based on current data, we know that children ages 4 to 8 and 9 to 13 years old can have a high-level of transmission. We were able to obtain this information because children are now back in school and engaging in other social activities.
When I hear from my patients that they don’t want to be “an experiment” or a “guinea pig,” I like to share with them that I and other health care providers were among the first to take the vaccine. Based on what we saw on a daily basis in the hospitals––and based on the extensive available data––we stood up and said, “Yes, we want to protect ourselves, our patients, and our families because we believe in the vaccine.”
That being said, it is my belief that if you don’t initially trust something, you should try to understand it from all perspectives in order to make the most informed decision for yourself and your loved ones. If you are a skeptic, ask yourself, “Why do I not trust the vaccine?” and see if you can find credible resources that address your concerns. Because at the end of the day, the most important thing we have in life is our good health.
Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, M.D., M.S., is a board-certified, practicing family physician based in Reno, where she serves as Regional Clinical Director for Carbon Health and Medical Director for Saint Mary’s Medical Group. She also is a member of the mayor’s task force on COVID-19.