Australia Letter – Here at the Royal Melbourne Hospital emergency department, as frontline workers, we scheduled ourselves for our first immunization this week.
Until last week, I wasn’t sure I would get the vaccine. Some media reports highlight that mRNA vaccines have never been approved for use in humans outside clinical trials, making it seem like a new technology that has not been tested before.
Skepticism runs deep in Australia, and anti-vaccine protests have popped up in many of our cities.
Outside this vocal minority — which seems to oppose immunization based on theoretical and ideological rather than scientific concerns — it is difficult to gauge the popular mood.
Anti-vax misinformation makes it difficult to voice genuine concerns
I get the sense that Australians feel obligated to be vaccinated, but privately many of us have reservations.
Within the medical community, the misinformation that pervades the anti-vaccination movement makes it difficult to voice genuine concerns. Doing so attracts gentle ridicule from my colleagues — to them, I sound as though I have let go of my medical education.
Every day in the emergency department, patients walk away from essential care against medical advice, and we watch them go with a shake of our heads and a rueful smile.
Just like them, isolated with my doubts, I was ready to exercise my right to free will and refuse the vaccine.
When my non-medical friends asked me about it, I was torn between telling them my concerns and playacting the doctor who recommends the latest proven therapy.
The few to whom I revealed my worries looked at me in bewilderment: If a doctor didn’t trust the vaccine, how were they supposed to? It felt like a betrayal.
The guilt I felt about this compelled me to objectively review the literature on mRNA vaccines. Not being an expert in virology or biochemistry, I realized I had to quickly master unfamiliar words like “transfection” and concepts about gene sequences. Slowly, the information I was devouring started changing my beliefs.
I learned that research into using mRNA for vaccinations and cancer therapies has been ongoing for the past 30 years …
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