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Column: To Hawaii’s young and unvaccinated: You need the shot now

David J. Lam, Ph.D., is a clinical and consulting psychologist with more than 40 years of professional experience.
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David J. Lam, Ph.D., is a clinical and consulting psychologist with more than 40 years of professional experience.

I’m writing to all the folks who are under 60 years old and still unvaccinated.

Yes, I’m an old timer, but I was young once, I have young people in my ohana, and I’ve worked with thousands of people in your age group in my career. So I hope you’ll keep an open mind and read what I’m going to say.

This is what I’m hearing about why you haven’t gotten vaccinated against COVID-19:

>> I’m healthy and won’t get infected.

Here are the facts: A whopping 89% of all new COVID cases are among those under 60, according to the latest data. Here’s the breakdown: 17% aged 0-17, 25% aged 18-29, 20% aged 30-39, 15% aged 40-49, and 12% aged 50-59.

>> Even if I get COVID, I won’t get real sick.

Not true. With the latest delta-variant surge in the Hawaiian islands, more and more young people are getting very sick, and some are dying. Some 56% of those hospitalized with COVID are under 60 years old. Over 90% of them are unvaccinated. There are reports of young children in ICUs. The vaccine won’t kill you, but COVID can.

>> Vaccines contain weird stuff.

There’s a lot of misinformation spreading on social media about vaccines — such as, they were made from embryonic tissue or they contain microchips that alter your genes. All false. The current vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use a technology called “messenger RNA.” Look it up to find out the truth.

>> Vaccines are dangerous.

Vaccines offer the best protection against infection, serious illness and death. That’s medical science, not just my opinion. The side effects are usually muscle soreness and fatigue that go away in two to three days. Most folks who are under 60 years old have been vaccinated in your childhood against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough, and the vaccines have protected you from those serious diseases without harmful effects. The federal Food and Drug Administration just granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.

>> I can’t be bothered.

Really? Vaccines are free, they are widely available, they involve two jabs in your arm three or four weeks apart. Simple. Most important: They protect not only you, but everyone whom you come into contact with, especially our kupuna who are at highest risk of dying from COVID, and keiki under 12 who can’t get vaccinated at this time. So it’s not just about you.

My health-care colleagues say they’re heartsick and angry at having to treat hundreds of suffering COVID patients who need not have gotten sick if only they’d been vaccinated. Hilo Hospital and Queen’s Hospital recently announced their ICUs (intensive care units) were full. Our doctors and nurses are stretched to the limit and they are the real heroes in this sad story.

So my message is: You can be a hero, too. Just get vaccinated.

David J. Lam, Ph.D., is a clinical and consulting psychologist with more than 40 years of professional experience.

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