I was afraid to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Yes, I admit it.
I’m putting myself out there because I know there are people out there who are also afraid, and I want to talk to you.
There was a time in my life when fear used to paralyze me. I’d be stuck in the discomfort of indecision and anxious thoughts.
So I get fear and how fear can take valid concerns and transform them into unreasonable doubts that stop you from making positive life-changing decisions.
You would think after working on the frontlines through two COVID-19 outbreaks with the most vulnerable COVID-19 population for almost a year, I would be completely over fear and jumping to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
But fear can transform a valid concern like, “Is this ‘new’ mRNA vaccine technology safe?” to absurdity like, “Is this the start of the Zombie apocalypse?”
True thought. Don’t judge me.
There are wonderful credible resources on the COVID-19 vaccine that I follow such as Akilah Jefferson MD (@akilahjeffersonmd) & Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (@johnshopkinssph). So I won’t spend time listing facts about the vaccine, but I will talk about dealing with fear.
2020 was my Year of Courage, and I learned it by walking through fear.
-I lost my Dad, my greatest cheerleader, in January 2020
-Left seven years in primary care and worked as an independent contractor in February 2020
-Worked on the COVID-19 frontlines through two COVID-19 outbreaks in as lead physician in a nursing & rehabilitation center
-Launched Embrace You Weight & Wellness, my holistic weight & wellness program, during the pandemic (August 2020)
-And had much, much more practice overcoming fear
As a spiritual and scientific person, I’ve learned to confront fear from both perspectives.
Spiritually: “God has not given us a spirit of fear but power, love, and a sound mind.”2 Tim 1:7
Science supports the limiting effects of fear. When we are in a fearful state, our ‘primitive’ brain takes over, and it’s challenging to think rationally using our higher-level brain function.
I handled deciding whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine like I did when I decided to go into the facility to see my COVID-19 patients during the outbreaks.
Prayer-I needed wisdom to determine if my fear was valid (i.e. based on truth) or irrational. Prayer also opened the doors of my heart to recall that I have:
Power & Love-I recalled verses that reminded me of God’s Love and Power but equally important that I have Divine Power and Love. Once I was in a place of Power and Love, the fogginess of fear began to subside so I could think with a:
Sound Mind-I listed my fears and reviewed the scientific evidence about mRNA vaccines. They’re not new. There’s research from as far back as 2003 with the first SARS outbreak. I read a lot of articles on the current COVID-19 vaccines and how they were tested. I weighed that evidence against the alternative theories and my sci-fi based fears of the impending zombie apocalypse.
Then I decided to proceed with the vaccine. I was scheduled to get it on 12/23/20, but they ran out before I received my first vaccine. I was disappointed. In hindsight, that was Divine intervention because at the time, I was tired and working 18-20 hours/day most days.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had time to optimize my wellness with:
-Rest by getting 7-9hrs hours of sleep nightly,
-Nourishment by eating plant-based minimally foods, water, and lots of vitamin C and
-Restoration from self-reflection and spending time with my family and friends even if most of it was virtual.
On MLK Day, 18th January 2021, I received my first COVID-19 vaccine. It was quick and pretty painless. Less painful than my flu vaccine, for sure.
More importantly, I felt relieved.
As I drove home, I thought of the past ten months working and living during the pandemic. Indescribable emotion flooded me. I recalled patients I’d cared for who’ve been isolated from their families for months due to COVID-19 restrictions, precious patients who lost their lives to COVID-19, and my loved ones and millions that are sick with COVID-19 right now.
COVID-19 has impacted us all in so many ways- physically, socially, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
The vaccine is one tool for a healthier future. But I know with all the misinformation out there, it can be scary to decide to get your COVID-19 vaccine.
So I won’t shame you by saying, “I got my vaccine. So you should”
Or throw blame, “People have died... People can die.”
None of this is helpful, nor does it address your fear.
If you are afraid of getting your COVID-19 vaccine, ask yourself:
What am I afraid of? List your fears.
Are my fears valid? Meaning: Spiritually, have I prayed about it? What’s God telling me? Scientifically have I reviewed evidence from multiple credible sources?
Am I at peace with my decision?
Whatever you decide regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, I pray it’s based on faith in the facts, not fear. May you and your loved ones stay safe and well through the pandemic and beyond.
-Sylvia Gonsahn-Bollie, M.D.
Embrace YOU Weight & Wellness, C.E.O. & Lead Physician
Obesity Medicine Specialist, ABOM
Internal Medicine/ Primary Care, ABIM
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @SylviaGBollieMD