COVID-19

Why I Decided to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

January 26, 2021

by DAVID BERGER, MD, FAAP

Dr. David Berger Tampa Pediatrician


The Importance of Transparency

I always aspire towards transparency, and ask the same of others. For example, I want the government and Big Pharma to be transparent about information regarding COVID-19 and the vaccines being utilized to fight it.  I am not naive, but considering the pressure people, including myself, have put on them to be transparent, I am hopeful we will get good data.

I have always believed how one pursues health is a personal decision, including choices related to lifestyle, supplements, medications, surgeries, and vaccines. As a physician and educational consultant, I do not tell people what they “should” do; rather, I serve in a support role helping people come to decisions that feel right to them. This includes my willingness to honestly provide an answer to the question, “What would you do if it were you or someone in your family?” I answer the question while also letting the person know my personal decision is based on my individual circumstances, which are unique to me and different from everyone else. 

Factors Affecting My Decision

I am a physician who meets with patients face-to-face (though much is currently done by video) and who works in a medical clinic that treats patients with a variety of illnesses. Five years ago, doctors removed my spleen and a significant part of my pancreas due to a pancreatic tumor. As a result, I now have diabetes and decreased potential to fight secondary bacterial infections. These medical conditions classify me as being most at risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19. 

Based on current transmission rates, I recently estimated approximately 7 million people will contract the SARS-CoV-19 virus in the next month, and many of these people will experience  illnesses much worse, and for far longer duration, than the flu. In that same time period, roughly 100,000 more Americans will die from complications of the virus. Furthermore, even if we take into account that there are many more actual cases than the reported 25 million cases we know about (many of which are asymptomatic), the virus is still 3-5 times more deadly than measles, and 5-10 times more deadly than the influenza.  

In assessing my concerns about the significant allergic reactions reported by some recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine, I noted that although my family has a history of autoimmune and hyperinflammatory conditions, I have not personally developed any such conditions in 50+ years.  I concluded I was at low risk of such issues since I have successfully controlled my allergies for many years by optimizing vitamin D and zinc levels. I also considered that optimal levels of these nutrients would likely decrease my chance of getting sick from COVID-19 if I were to contract it.

I further noted that I did not have any issues with vaccines I was given back in medical school or during my pediatric residency, which was even before I discovered and corrected my very low vitamin D level (mine was the lowest of the 72 individuals I tested during my first Vitamin D clinical study fifteen years ago). 

My Personal Decision 

Once I weighed the information in front of me, I decided the potential benefits outweighed the potential risks, and chose to take the Pfizer vaccine being offered at Tampa General Hospital. I received the first dose on January 15th and am scheduled to get the second dose on February 6th. 

The day I received the first dose, I experienced no discomfort other than the initial pinch of the needle. The day after receiving the vaccine, I had mild muscle soreness at the vaccination site that did not interfere with me working out or playing with our kids. On the third day, the soreness was completely gone and I have had no symptoms or discomfort since. 

We have heard the second dose can bring a stronger immunological response that can result in people not feeling well. I am interested to see how my body handles the second dose and will keep you posted.

What can I say, at this point, that might help guide others? 

There are many concerns and factors to consider when making a decision. You may come to a different conclusion than a friend or family member, and you both may be right. The best advice I can give is to write out a pros and cons list, and follow your instincts.

Take care,

Dr. David