I’ve been asked to clarify whether or not I require someone to be vaccinated for an in-person session. My policy is based on science and a risk/benefit analysis.
I do not require that you are vaccinated. And I do not engage in shame tactics whether you have chosen to or not.
The short answer: A “vaccinated only” policy does not make sense scientifically. Why? It does not stop you from becoming infected and transmitting that to others. While there is some evidence it can reduce the severity of disease, there is also evidence that it is causing some serious adverse events. Furthermore, these new mRNA treatments introduce unknown risks for long-term complications. I deeply respect people’s concerns about this and do not want them to feel pressured to take some very real risks in order to see me.
The long answer: First, let’s examine the concerns we have with getting together to session:
1. transmission, and
2. getting sick
Right now, while I don’t require shots, I do require masks for people I’ve never seen and also on a case-by-case basis with existing clients.
Concern 1: While masks, like condoms, do not eliminate transmission they do reduce it. And the better your mask, the less transmission will occur. Some argue that masks “do not work”. This is likely a misunderstanding between a risk-elimination measure and a risk-reduction measure. Nothing eliminates risk except not having exposure to things that may carry the virus, people or otherwise.
Likewise, this vaccine, like other vaccines, does not eliminate transmission. You can be fully vaccinated and acquire and pass along the virus to others. Data has shown that vaccinated people have as much viral load as unvaccinated people. (https://apnews.com/article/science-health-coronavirus-pandemic-d9504519a8ae081f785ca012b5ef84d1) and that they transmit that as readily as unvaccinated people (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00768-4/fulltext). Also important to note is that it does not prevent mutation and may in fact accelerate it.
Concern 2: Also, like other vaccines, those available for the SARS-CoV2 virus do not have an 100% efficacy rate against illness. This means you can receive the vaccines and still develop COVID. Israel, a county looked to for data because of its high vaccination rates, is estimating that it is only 40% effective at preventing infection. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/health-ministry-says-covid-vaccine-is-only-40-effective-at-halting-transmission/)
So, if our primary goal is to stop transmission between me and you, and the possibility of getting sick from this virus, the vaccine does not do that. On the other hand, while masks also can’t guarantee they eliminate transmission, they’re a more non-invasive approach which are safe for most people to use — especially for short periods of time — and have been shown to be the most effective means of reducing transmission (https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/582132-huge-new-study-finds-masks-most-effective-public). When wanting to reduce the above concerns, I feel masks are a very reasonable measure to require, with few — if any — adverse effects.
Furthermore, an very important factor for people making decisions about this vaccine is that there are no long-term studies on mRNA vaccines. None. Only short-term trials. The longest trial in experimental science, what is called a “phase 3 trial”, is the one going on right now, with everyone on the planet. Typically, it takes 5 – 10 years to conduct research and gather some level of sufficient data to determine if something can be considered “safe”. These vaccines have just gathered only one year of data of using this type of treatment in human subjects.
When running medical experiments scientists look for many things. Aside from a treatment’s efficacy, they look for any complications, such as long-term effects (e.g. is there a correlation between the treatment and the development of an illness) and contraindications (e.g. is there a correlation between people with pre-existing conditions or on certain medications and adverse effects). Sometimes they find that certain treatments put people at varying levels of risk for complications or death, which are the warnings you hear when medications are advertised (i.e. “may cause lightheadedness, seizures, or suicidal ideation”). This data is not yet available for these vaccines; it is being gathered now.
Without long-term data, assertions it’s “safe” are conjecture. They are generalizing this mRNA vaccine with all types of vaccines (which work differently); and they want us to take it, for research purposes and because they hope it will work, not because they can guarantee it is actually safe. Because of this, my beliefs about bodily autonomy, the fact that there are people walking around who have been exposed to this virus and have natural immunity, and my own concern that a vaccine I received over 25 years ago may have been directly related to a chronic health condition I have struggled with since that time, I cannot, in good conscience, make it a requirement. I feel that this is a deeply personal decision which involves a risk/benefit consideration for each person. Certainly nothing to coerce or shame people about.
So, if you can’t or don’t want to receive this vaccine, I support your right to make that choice. (Likewise, if you do choose to receive it.) However, I do need you to wear a sufficient mask — and also practice smart hygiene — if you come to visit me.