A photo of Dr. McClelland receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Living with the Covid virus (COVID-19, Coronavirus) has certainly created a challenging and confusing time for us all. For many people, it has resulted in a period of distress and uncertainty unlike any previously experienced. After much anticipation, COVID-19 vaccines are finally being distributed, but now people seem to be reeling with an entirely new set of concerns. 

As we enter 2021, millions of us are asking: “Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?”

I hope my perspective and personal opinions below regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine will be helpful to you and your family. They are based on my education in Molecular Biology from Princeton University, and my 30 years of practicing as a physician in the specialty of Otolaryngology (ENT). 

While I make no claims of specific expertise regarding modern protocols and the manufacturing of COVID-19 Vaccines, I do possess a fundamental understanding of vaccine development. I also firmly believe in the importance of distributing accurate information so that well-informed individuals can make the personal decision regarding whether or not to get vaccinated. 

I had my first Covid vaccine two weeks ago. It was easy and resulted in only a mild pain in my arm for two days. As of today, I’ve had no other side effects and plan to get my second vaccine next week. I’ve also encouraged everyone in my family and my office to do the same as soon as possible.

Every day, as an ENT physician, I am asked multiple questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. Below are a few of the most frequent questions and my opinions regarding these topics:

Will the COVID-19 Vaccine cause me to have the Covid virus?

No. The basic purpose of a vaccine is to cause the human body to create antibodies against a specific protein that is vital for the survival of a specific virus. Should the virus enter the human body after vaccination, the antibodies produced as a result of the vaccine will then attack the virus, resulting in significantly less, or no illness whatsoever, from the virus. The rapid production of these antibodies is what causes your arm to become sore at the vaccine injection site, and the reason why some people feel a little under the weather for a short while after having the vaccine.

Is the Covid Vaccine made from the DNA of aborted fetuses?

Given the complete absurdity of some of the things I’ve recently read online and on social media, I can certainly see where this question originated. But, the answer is definitely NO! The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain aborted fetus DNA. The Catholic Church which does not support abortion has sanctioned getting the Covid vaccine.

Should I be worried about getting the Covid Vaccine?

No. In fact, I highly recommend that you get a Covid vaccine as soon as possible. Vaccinations are something we as a society have safely taken for a very long time, and with an amazingly positive effect on our general health and our society. Devastating viruses such as Small Pox, Polio, Measles, Chicken Pox, and Shingles are just a few illnesses that our population no longer lives in fear of catching because of vaccines. Oversight of food and drug quality is something the US government has long done very well, in my view, and I am thankful for that. When I buy or prescribe medication, I do so with high confidence that it is effective and safe. 

Does the COVID-19 Vaccine permanently change my DNA?

Anyone who has a basic understanding of molecular biology will tell you that the COVID-19 vaccine will absolutely not change your DNA. It will cause your immune system to begin making antibodies needed to fight the Covid virus. Your genetic make-up and hereditary characteristics will not be altered. 

What is an mRNA vaccine and is it safe?

mRNA vaccines represent an amazing revolution in vaccine development and deployment. While Covid has brought us the first mass vaccination using the mRNA technology, mRNA vaccines have been extensively tested in recent years against the treatment of other viruses and have been found to be safe and effective.

Traditional vaccines use some form of the virus coating (either a dead or weakened virus itself or a specific protein from its outer shell) to create an immune response in the human body so that important antibodies can be created. In contrast, mRNA vaccines actually teach our own cells to make that same protein which then triggers that same immune response, thus producing the antibodies we need to fight the virus should we be exposed. 

The mRNA vaccine basically provides the human body with the blueprint necessary to create some of the viral protein itself, which in turn will stimulate the production of antibodies needed to fight the Covid virus.

Should the rapid development and distribution of the Covid vaccine concern me?

Most of us have been getting vaccinations since childhood, and every year we get our flu vaccine without giving it a second thought. The fact that the Covid vaccine was developed more quickly than traditional vaccines seems to be a primary concern for many people. This rapid distribution is not concerning to me because I have an understanding of why and how the process was accelerated, and of the many safeguards that were in place. Many of the Covid vaccine development steps were implemented simultaneously, allowing the vaccine to begin saving lives in less than one year. 

Think of it as having the ability to test, market, and finalize the distribution strategy of a new product before it was even manufactured. This process would allow the new invention to be sold on a large scale the moment it was produced. Such was the case with the Covid vaccine. I personally appreciate the foresight and commitment that led to this approach.

I truly hope this information can provide knowledge and confidence to those who are overwhelmed by the volumes of inaccurate information and speculation that permeate social media. I speak not as a virologist, but as a medical professional who might just know a bit more on the subject than many who are promoting false and alarming claims. I have no reason to doubt that the Covid vaccination is the white horse riding to our rescue that we have all prayed for over the last year! I trust in the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety and I encourage others to become vaccinated for COVID-19 as I did so that this vicious virus can stop ruling our lives.  

William McClelland, MD, FACS

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