Vaccines enable progress in the fight against COVID

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

Last night I met a Sacramento woman who is a neurosurgeon but during the pandemic has heard a call to do something about equity in vaccine access. Her grass-roots effort to acquire and distribute vaccines in neighborhoods where early uptake was low has probably saved many lives. And not only the lives of those who received the vaccine: widespread immunity in the community reduces the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), and that protects everyone.

I have good news from California: The contest isn’t over, but we’re winning.

First of all, here are…


This is who you protect when you get vaccinated. Source: National Cancer Institute, public domain.

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

My hubby saw a series of patients in his clinic last week, and an uncomfortable number of them have not been vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus. As he engaged them in conversation, he discovered a surprising variety of explanations and excuses for hesitancy or refusal. (Here’s a nice article about some of the categories: “COVID skeptics, Cost-anxious, System distrusters, and the Watchful”.) Honestly, a think a lot of people are not really capable of explaining their reason(s). They just have a gut feeling, and they are accustomed to making decisions from the gut.

If humans were creatures of pure reason…


By Amy Rogers, MD/PhD

Victory for the vaccines

{Author’s note: This essay is from a US perspective. Forgive me for this parochial view. Other parts of the world are experiencing their own timeline.}

Over a year ago in April 2020 I started publishing a series of blog posts on the pandemic endgame. We had been in lockdown for some weeks, people were dying by the thousands in New York and New Jersey, and economic activity was at a standstill. Worst of all, as we tried to understand what “flatten the curve” meant, we could not see a way out at the end. I offered…


By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

Some people who refuse the COVID vaccines argue there is no point to being vaccinated if you must still wear a face mask in public.

I won’t address the problematic, underlying assumption-that the main (or only?) reason to be vaccinated is to escape the inconvenience of covering your face.

But vaccinated people too may be wondering why the face mask recommendation has not been entirely lifted for them. So here’s the deal.

When Pfizer and Moderna (and Johnson & Johnson, etc.) implemented clinical trials of their new vaccines at warp speed last year, they needed answers to two critical questions…


Misunderstanding COVID vaccine 90% efficacy

Photo by Dragon Pan on Unsplash

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

I shared a recent Zoom call with a woman who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “Fully vaccinated” means she is at least 14 days past her second dose of one of the mRNA vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer.

This woman has not seen her grandchildren in person in over a year, and she desperately wishes to do so. But she still will not. I had to ask. Why?

She didn’t use this word, but the answer was innumeracy.

Innumeracy is the math equivalent of illiteracy. It’s rampant, and unlike illiteracy it’s socially acceptable. How…


By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

COVID vaccination record. Image courtesy of US Dept. of Defense / Operation Warp Speed

J&J is on hold. Are COVID vaccines safe?

Some years ago I discovered a website that “provides an unbiased data clearinghouse” on the controversy and dangers surrounding dihydrogen monoxide, or DHMO. According to the site, DHMO “is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year…DHMO may cause severe burns; accelerates corrosion; is a major component of acid rain; and is found in biopsies of pre-cancerous tumors.” …


Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

We are spectacularly underselling the good news about the pandemic right now

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

As my parish begins the season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we celebrate a nine-day “Novena of Grace.” This year the theme is Hope, one of the three theological virtues (along with faith and love/charity). Naturally, much of the reflection about hope has touched on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic.

I wanted to stand up and shout something, but decided to write a blog post instead. I wanted to say, hope about the end of the pandemic isn’t mystical or eschatological. Unlike hope for the Kingdom of God, or the afterlife, or world peace, you don’t have to be a…


Peak month for flu season. Source CDC

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

A friend shared a post purportedly from a pharmacist who has noticed that prescriptions for Tamiflu, the most widely prescribed drug against influenza (the flu), are way below normal. The author then goes on to argue that all those “missing” flu cases are being manipulated into the COVID-19 count in order to inflate the severity of the coronavirus. My friend asked for comments from people in the medical field. So I responded. Here’s what I had to say.

Is it true that flu activity is below normal?

Yes. According to the CDC, as of Dec. 12 2020, influenza cases in the US are unusually low. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm

Are people who actually have the flu being categorized as COVID cases instead?

Possibly a few…


By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

A reader asked me to help them understand whether COVID is different from flu, and why we should care about a disease that 99% of people recover from.

*****

When the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic was recognized in the US back in March, a common argument against efforts to “flatten the curve” was this: We don’t close businesses and schools over seasonal influenza (“the flu”), so why should we over the new coronavirus infection?

Sadly, it’s easier to see now why a stronger public health response against COVID makes sense. Back in March, the absolute number of…


Is there a pro-life conflict over vaccination?

HeLa human fibroblast cells, image created by Tom Deerinck, NIGMS, NIH. Source: National Cancer Institute, public domain

By Amy Rogers, MD, PhD

With the good news coming from phase 3 clinical trials, vaccines are on many people’s minds this week. Part of the conversation is about acceptance when a COVID vaccine becomes available.

Vaccine hesitancy, or outright vaccine refusal, has been a thing since long before COVID. In fact it dates back to the very first vaccinations against smallpox in the 18 thcentury, and it spans cultures worldwide for reasons that are often contradictory yet specifically relevant to a particular time and place. …

Dr. Amy Rogers

Amy Rogers, MD, PhD, is a Harvard-educated scientist, novelist, journalist, and educator. She blogs about coronavirus at AmyRogers.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store