- Tom Shaw, 30, a DoorDash delivery person from Philadelphia, changed his mind on the COVID-19 vaccine.
- He decided to get the vaccine in July – which Insider verified – after doing some online research.
- He realized it was safe and worried about the Delta variant. Here’s his story, as told to Elle Hardy.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
I had all my vaccines growing up, but when I was about 16 I got into the natural-health scene through the book “Fast Food Nation,” which talked about the unhygienic handling of meat in the American food supply.
It started with vegetarianism and made me feel like I had some special insider knowledge. From there, I got into fasting, detoxification, sunlight, walking barefoot, and so on. Through that, I developed a general mistrust of the medical community.
Late last year, somebody in our extended family got COVID-19 really bad and ended up with permanent lung and heart damage. Still, when the COVID-19 shot came out, I was very anti-vaccines.
I thought they were unnecessary. I’m young and fairly healthy, so the odds of me getting COVID-19 and dying are ridiculously low.
I was hesitant about whether the vaccine was rushed.
It was a new technology; I had no idea how this whole mRNA thing worked. You read all these posts on Facebook.
I didn’t feel I necessarily needed the vaccine. There were risks with it – it wasn’t a good idea to get it just yet.
Weighing in the back of my head, though, was that COVID-19 is not just the flu. Out of the people that survive, how many people end up with long COVID-19? How many people that come out of it end up with permanent damage? We still don’t have a whole lot of data on that yet, as far as I’m aware.
I was at this junction where I realized I’m probably going to be exposed to COVID-19 at some point.
I don’t want to have to figure out the rest of my life with a possibly preventable condition.
So I did a little risk-benefit analysis. And that’s where I started to really delve into the other side of the data.
I started doing pro-vaccine research and learned a lot.
When I saw the data, the whole risk of the vaccine just went completely down in my mind. It’s basically harmless.
When it comes to stuff like heart inflammation, which is the main thing I’m concerned about, even if you develop heart attacks, blood clots, I figure that these are all things that the medical community has been treating for decades. We have a whole cocktail of drugs and procedures that can keep you alive and get you through it.
If you get COVID-19, they send you on the ventilator, and all you can do is pray. That’s where the decision was made for me.
Emotionally, I didn’t want to get the vaccine, because I have all these years of conditioning and messages of fear.
All told, I was researching for about six weeks, gathering the data and trying to understand the different arguments.
It’s almost embarrassing to admit how uneducated I was about all this stuff.
For example, one of the big arguments against vaccines that always made sense to me was that if the vaccines work, why does everyone need to get them? It sounded perfectly reasonable to me.
And then I learned about how these variants start coming about. When you get the virus, it’s able to replicate a lot easier in your body because you don’t have antibodies to it. The more it replicates, the more it mutates, which increases the chance of a new variant.
The reason for everybody to get the vaccine is to make sure that the virus doesn’t mutate to a point where it’s resistant to the vaccines – now even the people with vaccines are in danger. As soon as I read that, I said to myself, “Oh my God, it all makes sense.”
Now I have to completely change my worldview in the face of this new data – that’s what people should be doing, in my opinion. You shouldn’t get attached to a belief. You should always be flexible.
When I had the first shot of Pfizer on July 19, I had anxiety.
I made an appointment at a CVS and started taking vitamin C and zinc a week in advance in an attempt to boost my immune response and hopefully mitigate any potential side effects.
The first 30 minutes I was shaking and had chills.
I went to the ER and sat right outside the waiting room for about an hour just to make sure if I got anaphylaxis I was right there and they could hop on it.
I’m a little frustrated about education on vaccines.
Whenever I hear stuff in the media in terms of vaccines, it’s always “It’s safe and effective, go get it.” There’s never a whole lot of data explaining why it’s safe and effective.
That took a lot of digging for me. It’s not so readily available. And then once I got the data, I thought, “Why didn’t I know this stuff?”
I think a lot of the mistrust about vaccines has to do with the fact that we’re so disconnected – not just from each other but also from these institutions.
It’d be different if the general public had access to all the studies the same way that medical students and doctors do. We can all look at this stuff and understand it if we all have the basic education and are able to read and interpret these studies in an educated way.
At the end of the day, something I’ve fought with my whole life is making decisions based on emotions, and it’s done nothing but put me in bad places. It’s a goddamn struggle to overcome.
What I would suggest to anybody who’s on the fence is to do the research, look at the data, listen to both sides, and don’t just listen to the people saying it’s dangerous – listen to the people saying it’s safe, and try to figure out why they’re saying that, and find the studies and the data.
I don’t talk to any of the anti-vax people directly about it, because I know how they’ll respond, and it won’t be productive unless they’ve shown the desire to listen to the “other side.” But I’ve been active on Reddit, sharing my point of view in case it helps others who are on the fence and willing to consider both sides.
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