Deluged this past week with practical questions from friends and family about holiday COVID-19 protocols around testing and quarantine, I was reminded of the physician’s credo: primum non nocere, first of all do no harm.

There is a reason we call it the art of medicine. Physicians and other health care workers do their best to ground prevention practices and treatment options in scientific research. There is always a gap between research findings and implementation into clinical practice. And the findings sometimes shift rapidly, as more knowledge is gained.

That is the nature of complicated studies translating into real-world recommendations. And the art arises in deciding the risk benefit analysis of a given treatment for a specific diagnosis in a particular patient. If not a cure, will a designated drug — despite the inevitable side effects each carries — actually improve quality of life and long-term outcome? Will a certain recommended preventive measure — getting a mammogram or a PSA test regularly, for example — result in earlier diagnosis and less mortality, or create a lot of anxiety and unnecessary medical procedures?

The pandemic has certainly brought these types of heath care issues to the forefront of our awareness. I have a few friends who are not vaccinated. One of them regularly sends me articles or videos highlighting the negative effects of vaccines or some deeper conspiracy-type rants on the virus itself. While my scientific mind wants to immediately reject such material, the part of me that wants to truly understand where he is coming from is willing to consider at least some of it.

Public health is failing us once again, because no data is being collected on the adverse effects of the booster shot. And not enough on the vaccines now going to children. Many of us (why not all of us?) have experienced getting a number of text messages, easy to reply to, about after-effects of the vaccines. This is a critical aspect of using these substances that were indeed “fast-tracked” through the approval process.

We need to know, and be transparent about, the true incidence of adverse effects, otherwise we simply play into the hands of the fears of the anti-vaxxing community. A huge opportunity has been lost because after my booster, I received no such text queries about side effects. The system was already in place; why not employ it to gather more critical data?

Within a day of her third shot, my wife’s tinnitus increased markedly as it had with the second shot; I experienced an increase in benign paroxysmal vertigo. Others I know had other side effects, some of which have not yet been linked with the booster. Why are we flying blind when we have the ability to gather this information and see? Especially going forward when we may all be asked to keep getting booster shots because of waning immunity or new variants.

If we want to make science-based decisions — given all the inherent limitations — we need to have a great system in place to examine the everyday data of vaccine side effects.

Victor la Cerva is a retired pediatrician and public health physician who worked for the New Mexico Department of Health for many years. He is the author of many books and a weekly podcast on matters of importance.

(6) comments

Susan Nalder

interesting read, Victor. so i did a little search and found: There are most likely some published data- good sources are Hopkins and Columbia schools of public health. so it turns out data about reactions to vaccine is being collected; maybe not analyzed fast enough for some who feel the need for it.

Patsy Martinez

Thank you for this editorial. I continue to suffer from tinnitus over 9 months now due to the Moderna vaccine (never had tinnitus before). I am not an anti-vaxxer or a “Trumper.” Side effects are possible from the covid vaccines and some may be long term and possibly last a lifetime. All possible side effects should be listed like other vaccines and all medications. It’s best to be honest because the vaccines are not safe for everyone.

Ann Maes

Our tax dollars at work, making the rich, richer and the poor with no recourse.

Mike Johnson

This is dangerous, spreading another reason for people to not get vaccinated? The government does not want to know things like this, much less publicize them with any statistics.

Kristie Zamrazil

I got text messages asking about my vaccine reactions, health and well being. You had the option to sign up for them. You can look up reaction reports on the CDC website (VAERS). There are peer-reviewed studies on the Internet about vaccine reactions. I know, because I had a weird reaction and I researched it.

John Gomez

In the meeting the FDA had on giving kids they jabs they admitted they have no idea what the long term effects will be for them. Pizer tired to avoid a FIOA request on safety for this vax for 75 years. Now they are forced to do it in a year. You can't sue these companies if you get hurt. How many boosters will we have to take because they elites let this virus out of a lab? Why are they taking all our monet and giving it to the rich via the cares act? Why did they just admit this vax effects menstrual cycles when we all knew it did a year ago? Why are they forcing it so hard? People are such smug sheep

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