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DO WHAT WE CAN, WHEN WE CAN
- Dr. Andrew Simon, Rebel Med NW Clinic Director, Naturopathic Physician
DO WHAT WE CAN, WHEN WE CAN
I remember walking down Ballard Ave during the 2 weeks “flatten the curve” phase in Late March 2020. I walked to Rebel Med NW, a 2000 sq ft clinic my wife and I had spent our grad-school years dreaming of building. Our intent with such a clinic would be to help our community and improve the lives of so many people that felt challenged by the current medical system; people who are were not finding the right answers for their health needs. As I sat there in my office after sending everyone else home to “flatten the curve”, thinking to myself: Was I going to be able to pay rent, pay my employees, or have to eventually shut down by business as the pandemic dragged on? Thinking of the other small businesses in Ballard that were coming to grips with the same challenges that this pandemic has put in front of us all.
I knew that I couldn’t let everything I had worked for and dreamed of to go down the drain. I began by doing what I could do: quickly pivoted the office into telemedicine, establish covid-19 testing, remodel the office for safety, maximize what we could accomplish with decreased staffing, and prepare our clinic for resiliency much like we teach our patients. The trauma this nation and our local communities have faced over the last few years is one to not be forgotten.
When the Covid-19 Vaccines became available, I immediately knew that while this wasn’t going to be the full solution to the problem, it was going to ease the burden of so many people that were being traumatized by the fear of uncertainty, the loss of community, and the raw challenge that many may not have been ready to face. After waiting patiently for the state to shift its resources from large vaccine centers to smaller doctor’s offices like our own, we understood that the best place to consider a vaccine administration is in the hands of a primary care physician willing to sit down and educate their patient about all aspects of the virus, the vaccine, and their body’s physiological response in a meaningful and informed way. We provide this care every day to patients, follow the latest research, and create an informed approach to support not only our patients health and wellness individually, but to aid in the collective nature it takes to heal this community from such a traumatic moment. We are so glad to be part of such a diverse and supportive community.
During a time of division and contention, being Rebels means to avoid emotional reactivity to either side, and instead, take the balanced road to hear all sides. Then to do what we believe to be the right thing for those we are here to serve because that is the calling we’ve taken on as healers.
WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER, AND TOGETHER WE'LL GET THROUGH THIS
- Dr. Jessica Schule, Naturopathic Physician
WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER, AND TOGETHER WE’LL GET THROUGH THIS
The pandemic has created a divide within our communities (locally, nationally, internationally), regarding inter-personal and professional relationships, along with socializing opportunities. It has also created shortages on material goods and the workforce. From the pandemic, we have learned to shift our priorities, value our professional and personal relationships, respect boundaries, value and respect our own physical and mental health, and to be cognizant of the present moment. We have learned about new emotions, unpacking of previous emotions, along with the utilization of coping mechanisms in another form to process all of our new experiences in a new society. With the recent onset of the COVID vaccine mandate, please know that you are not alone with any form of uneasiness, uncertainty, or visceral turmoil. Please have conversations with individuals that you love and trust, with health care providers, and with yourself regarding your priorities, beliefs, and values. We are all in this together, and together we will get through this.
WHY MANDATES ARE A BAD IDEA
- Khairul Bhagwandin, MSAOM, Acupuncturist
WHY MANDATES ARE A BAD IDEA
I will start off by saying this is not an anti-vax opinion, I am all for the COVID-19 vaccine. We know that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective in reducing severity of symptoms and death. It is an effective tool in saving lives, as well as keeping hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. However, health is not one size fits all and immunity is not determined only by the vaccine.
Many people have lost trust in the government, and it is fully apparent that our current health care system is failing us. This entire pandemic has been handled poorly and many lives have been lost, many of which could have been prevented. This is because our government has used the pandemic as a political tool to divide us. The messaging around the virus and our safety is confusing, and is not based on the latest science.
The COVID-19 vaccine does not stop the spread of the virus, therefore we will never reach heard immunity. This virus is not going away, we are moving towards an endemic, which means we will eventually all contract the virus regardless of our vaccination status. We need to start focusing our energy on developing effective treatment and improving individual health. There are many things we can do to ready ourselves, vaccinated or not.
Instead doctors and scientists are being silenced when questioning pharmaceuticals and mainstream treatments. Any mention of negative side effects and you are labeled an anti-vaxxer. This is not how science is conducted, and it is certainly not how you gain trust from the general population. I truly believe if people’s concerns were listened to and addressed, they would get vaccinated. I also believe that not everyone needs to be vaccinated, natural infection gives as much, if not more protection than the vaccine. A Mandate is a great way to cause even more push back from the people who are already hesitant.
If this was really about immunity and safety, then previous infection and testing would be enough. Actually, because COVID-19 can still be spread when vaccinated, testing should really be the only acceptable means of preventing the spread.
So what would be a better and more effective strategy for the pandemic?
First of all, informed consent. Making any decision about your health should be thoroughly discussed with your healthcare provider. Seriously weigh the risks and benefits, discuss what you should be doing to prepare yourself for the vaccine and for COVID-19 infection. Talk about any concerns, side effects and about what we don’t know. Be informed on the treatment you are being given and what you can do to build your immune system at home. Because yes, you can, and probably will, still get a COVID-19 infection regardless of vaccination status.
We know how to build our immune systems, we know vitamin D deficiency is a major factor in poor outcomes. We know proper nutrition and regular exercise increases our immunity and decreases severity of the disease. We also know that properly managing underlying conditions can help to decrease the severity of symptoms.
So why haven’t we heard a public service announcement about our health and lifestyles? Because an injection is easy, addressing health as a nation would require addressing social and economic inequalities, food deserts, our healthcare, and food systems as whole. But I believe we can do both, and if we’re going to make it out of this alive we have to do both.
It’s time to come together as a community and stop blaming each other for the pandemic. We are all stressed out and we are all in this together. Someone else’s vaccine status is not going to affect your symptoms and there are valid reasons to not be vaccinated. It’s okay to be upset with the government and our healthcare system, and you probably should be. It is not okay to discriminate based on medical decisions. Everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have. Take it upon yourself to take responsibility for your health and also to pressure your politicians for change.
I promise to support you in whatever decision you make and to provide you with education and support regardless of your vaccination status. If you are hesitant in your decision or confused, I encourage you to ask more questions. I also encourage you to make an appointment with me or your favorite healthcare provider to discuss optimizing your immune system. From a holistic point of view, we treat each person as a whole, rather than using a one size fits all standardized treatment.
In Health and Unity,
SAFETY AND PROTECTION
- Olivia Sullivan, Masters in Public Health, Office Coordinator, Vaccine Coordinator
SAFETY AND PROTECTION
It is both an honor and a privilege for me to give COVID-19 vaccines to our patients. My background in public health informs the work I do here at Rebel Med NW to help ensure that our vaccination program follows the most current guidelines. As a healthcare worker, I feel a responsibility to get vaccinated in order to maintain a safe environment for our patients; as an immunocompromised person, I am grateful for the protection that the vaccine provides me, my family, and my community.
A PERSONAL SACRIFICE FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST
- Dr. Kristin Barnes, Naturopathic Physician
A PERSONAL SACRIFICE FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST
My background as a retired Naval officer gives me a unique perspective on vaccines. There is no group that sacrifices more rights than the group of individuals that protect them for our nation. The US military is tasked, on a philosophical level, with protecting American citizens’ rights to personal liberty and freedom yet they give up those same rights in order to serve in a way that it non-partisan and fair. Military members, even more so than healthcare workers, are subject to mandatory vaccines particularly if they are to deploy overseas in combat zones. My personal vaccination record is 8 pages long. While I have always intensely disliked this, it is not lost on me that these vaccines protect my health much as the literal armor we carry or wear protects our physical bodies in conflict. Serving in the military is a privilege. As I embark on my medical career, I approach service to patients and the larger interests of public health as a community in the same way – it’s a privilege. As such, if I am required to get a vaccine in order to continue doing what I love, I consider it part of the sacrifices I need to make to continue doing what I do. There are times when an individual must consider the needs of the larger group ahead of their own. While I don’t want yet another vaccine in my body, for me, this is just another one of those times when I need to place public interests above my own.
MY CIVIC DUTY
- Emma Esselstyn, Office Coordinator, Language Artist, Future Educator
MY CIVIC DUTY
I am so thankful for the COVID-19 vaccine that was developed collaboratively by the brightest minds and foremost experts in bio-engineering, pharmacology, public health, and more. With this recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, we can be fully assured that the data speaks for itself: this vaccine is safe, it is effective, it passes the most rigorous standards for public usage, and most of all, it saves lives and reduces harm.
Our hospital systems have been overloaded with the burden of COVID-19. Nationwide, ICUs are filling up, leaving little room for medical emergencies, whether it’s a COVID-19 positive case or a gunshot wound, the healthcare system is being stretched thin. I’m so grateful for the COVID-19 Vaccine’s ability to reduce incidence of the virus, and if a vaccinated person gets the virus, I’m grateful that the vaccine reduces the severity of their illness, in turn reducing the chance they will need emergency care, freeing up valuable ICU beds for others.
From working at Rebel Med NW, I’ve experienced the power of preventative care. We must nourish our body, mind, and soul before we get sick. The COVID-19 vaccine is preventative care. I got mine as soon as I was eligible, because I trust the data that attests to its safety and effectiveness. Our natural immune system is not enough when it comes to a novel, foreign virus for which we have no antibodies. This virus is strong and severe– it wreaks havoc on our lungs and heart, and is especially merciless to the elderly and the immunocompromised. Even if one has gotten COVID-19 in the past, the data shows that the most powerful immune response is achieved through vaccination. I want to protect my neighbors and protect myself, and that’s why I got this vaccine and will get the booster dose as soon as I’m eligible.
If you’re not sure about your eligibility for the booster dose or the immunocompromised third dose, I’d love to speak to you about it- feel free to call our office! My dream is for everyone eligible in our society to be totally vaccinated, so we can end this pandemic and safely get back to the social, community-oriented activities that we love.
Vaccines are a miracle of modern science. Ever since they were invented, they have reduced more suffering and death than I can even wrap my head around. It is a massive privilege to be offered a vaccine for free, and I will not take that for granted, because I know that around the world, developing countries still don’t have vaccine access and are suffering greatly with this pandemic.
It is my civic duty to get the vaccine, and from my standpoint, I believe it’s yours too. Please help us end this pandemic and schedule a vaccine.
IT'S OK TO HAVE QUESTIONS, IT'S OK TO HAVE DOUBTS
- Dr. Jason FauntLeRoy, Naturopathic Physician
IT’S OK TO HAVE QUESTIONS AND IT’S OK TO HAVE DOUBTS
As a naturopath, I often work with people who do not just go along with whatever the conventional guidelines that are in place. The subject of COVID-19 vaccine safety is no exception. I have a wonderful 87-year-old grandmother who I would do anything to protect, and the vaccine is currently our only way to prevent her from infection. At her age, infection could mean the end of her life when she is otherwise completely healthy and able to live on her own. On the other hand, I have family who has genuine concerns and questions about the vaccine and if it is safe for them and their long-term health. It is not an easy conversation to have, but one that I encourage. It is ok to ask your doctor questions and it is ok to have doubts. I encourage my friends and family to ask away. Just be sure that you are getting your answers from quality sources. There is a plethora of misinformation out there and it is easy to make this sound like there is a simple answer. The important part to me is that I want everyone I talk with to know that I respect this conversation and sincerely want to help get you the answers you seek so you can make an informed decision.
In my professional opinion, it comes down to comparing the relative risks. There is currently strong data about COVID long haul syndromes. One large study showed that a group of young men on a football team had COVID and six months later a large percentage of them had signs of cardiac damage. Another example is from a cruise ship where people were infected, and many of those that got COVID were asymptomatic. But roughly 20 percent had signs of pulmonary damage six months later. We know that there is long-term harm. We have no good data arguing that there is harm emergent from the vaccines. There is more research being done to follow up with special groups so that more data could be collected to ensure safety. Therefore, I encourage that all able individuals get vaccinated as soon as it is available to protect themselves and their loved ones from the long term sequelae and complications of COVID-19.
I will keep my mind and door open for anyone who wants to keep up with the research and talk through the details.
WHERE IS THE LINE?
- Dr. Phonexay Simon, DAOM, Acupuncturist
WHERE IS THE LINE?
A mandate by our governing bodies is not something to take lightly and we should not take it lightly. As an individual, my first responsibility is to myself. Personal accountability and self-agency are integral to personal survival. The vaccine has had dangerous outcomes for some individuals and we shouldn’t discount that.
It’s true that vaccines don’t work perfectly for individuals, and there are certainly risks, but the risks of the Sars-cov-2 virus are still so much more. Unfortunately, over 700,000 individuals have died from Covid-19 and counting. Individuals that could still be alive. The U.S. is 4th in the world for number of children orphaned due to Covid-19. I have reservations about mandates, but if I were a government official that has people dying on my watch, I would do everything I could to blunt that process as much as I could.
Vaccines, when applied to the population, decrease viral transmissibility and virulence within that population. In essence, this protects everybody because we slow down the wave that comes at us. It decreases the risk to our body’s infrastructure and our society’s infrastructure of being overwhelmed. Vaccination combined with social distancing and mask wearing means the difference of not just how severely one gets sick, but also of how many people get sick. This has ramifications for personal safety and the safety of others when we consider the strain that Covid-19 has put onto our medical system.
It is a fact that Sars-cov-2 is becoming endemic in our population, the question is how many people are we willing to allow to die or become disabled through this process if we don’t do literally everything that we can and use every method available to us to slow down or blunt the effects of it.
BUT the push back that comes from our society members is a reminder for us all to consider: Where is the line when we choose to override individual rights for the safety of society as a whole? And it should always be an important consideration. Our own personal rights are absolutely important, but so are the rights of other individuals to live safely when our decisions and actions can have ill-effects on them. At Rebel Med NW, we chose to enforce the line drawn by the state and we had to draw our own line as well. A mandate is inflammatory to a lot of people, and that’s a good thing, because that will keep us considering where our line should be. But in this instance, a mandate will also keep more people alive and well so that we can continue having these important conversations into the future together.
These are the thoughts and feelings from the individuals at Rebel Med NW. Remember that you are not alone in this. For whatever concerns or questions you have, there are others with the same concerns and questions. Reach out to speak with someone if you need to. The providers and staff at Rebel Med NW are here to listen, educate, and advocate for our community.