Beagle.jpgBy Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr.                                                           Fort Jackson Commander

The famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky’s most famous quote is, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.” Fort Jackson and the rest of the world have a legitimate chance to literally “take a shot” against COVID-19 following 10-months of the ongoing global pandemic. The problem? Many are unwilling or reluctant to take the shot. Appropriately stated by our Moncrief Army Health Care Clinic Commander, Col. Tara Hall, “we have been on the defensive against COVID-19 … the vaccine affords us our first offensive capability.”

In short, to reach the goal of 70-80% herd immunity in our country, we must proactively, consistently inform and educate over 328 million Americans about the safety and efficacy of the Federal Drug Administration-approved vaccines now in use by the global community. The current declination rate to receive immunizations in the U.S. hovers around 50% or higher. Convincing a sizeable national population to become immunized is not an easy task to accomplish. However, for everyone to collectively return to any semblance of normalcy, this is an epic undertaking that must happen quickly and successfully. Anything short of this path to ending the pandemic, at least in our country, is analogous to kicking the light at the end of the tunnel further away.

The problem? There are several, and this article provides only a few. Most folks are misinformed or don’t take the time to do their research on the vaccine. Moreover, others have put the immunization discussion into a political box and view it as political allegiance or lack thereof. Many others are merely skeptical or bought into disinformation campaigns pushing conspiracy theories about all of us being tracked by satellites due to an activated microbe embedded in all COVID-19 vaccines. Unbelievable right? Don’t be shocked because conspiracy theories abound. This narrative is false, contrary to science, and dangerous.

Facts regarding the vaccine may not be 100% convincing to all people, but consider the facts to date about COVID-19. For starters, there are more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19, which is more American deaths than during the entirety of World War II. Furthermore, positive test and subsequent case rates have remained in the double digits since the onset of this pandemic (depending on where you live.) In South Carolina, state agencies report a 30% positivity rate daily, and a modest 20+% seems to be the daily norm. I want to strongly emphasize the importance of understanding the facts and benefits of the vaccine.

No one (to my knowledge) has ever stated that the vaccine is 100% guaranteed. Nonetheless, I’ll take the 95% assurance any day compared to hoping my daily mask wear, washing my hands, and being mindful of my distance from others will protect me. There is a saying inside the Pentagon when it comes to buying material solutions to problems. You can have it “good, fast or cheap, but you can’t have all three.” With the FDA approval and release of several vaccine variants, our nation achieved 2 out of 3, which isn’t bad. To develop a material solution to the problem of COVID-19, the state and federal government mobilized every resource possible to research, fund, develop and deliver a vaccine that would be our best offense against COVID-19. In this case, we have fast and “good enough,” which is still not enough for some.

The counter-argument is “the development was too fast.” One could argue that if the development had taken the traditional 7 to 10 years, that would have been way too slow. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live out the rest of my days wearing a mask, not hugging or shaking hands and many other social behaviors that we all I enjoy. Ninety-five percent “good enough” immunity to the virus versus anything less is the path to better days I prefer to travel.

Now let’s review the other readily available and research-proven facts that folks are having difficulty accepting. Fact – the vaccine won’t give you COVID-19. It is not a live virus but something described as mRNA or messenger ribonucleic acid. In other words, it instructs your body on how to build a protein. When the virus (COVID-19) shows up, your body says, “I’ve seen this before,” and goes on the offensive by creating antibodies that will defeat the virus that invaded your body and immune system. Fact — “You can test positive after getting the vaccine.” Not true. Fact — “The vaccine isn’t safe.” Again not true.

All vaccine variants developed in several countries underwent extensive peer-review by qualified experts of Phase 3 clinical trial results involving more than 43,000 volunteer participants. The peer-review included academia, government, industry, and industry regulators. All concluded there were no serious safety issues or concerns with the vaccines they investigated. A small percentage of the volunteer participants experienced moderate side effects such as fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, and headache. Vaccines in use for decades, such as Influenza, Tetanus, and Diptheria, have similar side effects. Have you ever taken the time to listen to the laundry list of side effects for medicines advertised on TV commercials? Following the onset of COVID-19, teams of doctors, scores of scientists, and researchers worldwide immediately began developing a vaccine for coronavirus-19. Vaccine development is a complicated, lengthy and arduous process under normal circumstances. However, a global pandemic tends to expedite the process with a great sense of urgency.

COVID-19 researchers had many advantages over their predecessors working on vaccine development before the pandemic. Unprecedented transparency, virtually unlimited financial support, and leveraging years of prior coronavirus research data helped expedite the development process. What typically takes years to accomplish was achieved within months. This extraordinary success is a testament to what can be achieved by working as a team–“the power of plenty.”

“Protect the Force, Protect the Mission” is the mantra and mandate at Fort Jackson. We can’t protect the force with plexiglass, telework, masks, and social distancing forever. These are all defensive measures when we must go on the offense in a big way. Suppose you are still reluctant or downright adamant about not taking a COVID-19 vaccine after you finish reading this article. I recommend that you conduct research and weigh the vast amount of independent research results available to the public on numerous credible global agency web sites, literature, and periodicals. Following this, If you are still not convinced that COVID-19 vaccines are the best way for humanity to stem the spread and eventually eliminate this global pandemic, I feel compelled to ask a few serious questions.

What cure are you waiting for? If you have already had the misfortune of having COVID-19 and believe a vaccine is no longer necessary, why are you confident the newer strains won’t affect you? If you are a uniformed service member that is reluctant to take the vaccine, what will you do if and when the Department of Defense decides to make the vaccine mandatory for all service members? Just a few things to think about.

We have done exceptionally well at Fort Jackson during the pandemic and at a high cost, inconvenience, and hard work. We have not let our nation nor our community down in our endeavors to date. We can help ourselves reduce some of the stress, anxiety, and headache that living in a pandemic world has caused due to COVID-19. I’d ask each of you that are reluctant, not fully informed, or just against getting the vaccine to reconsider your position. Educate yourself and use the resources at MAHC to speak to a professional who can answer your questions and concerns.

I want to see “normal” again and soon, but we won’t get there unless we all get on board and take the shot. As Wayne Gretzky alluded to, we can’t make a shot if we don’t take it. This is one shot worth taking to help ourselves and help others.

Victory! Starts Here!