Trust the medical and public health experts

#UWC news
June 6,2021 265
Trust the medical and public health experts

For public health and medical professionals, there is nothing more frustrating than knowing that members of our own community will fall victim to a deadly disease for which a vaccine is readily available.  Using 21st century technology, we’ve developed life-saving vaccines against the COVID-19 virus – vaccines that have been proven to be both safe and effective in preventing or limiting the impact of this disease.

Today, the U.S., Canada, Ukraine and the whole global community is in a race against time.  Millions are being vaccinated each day, and there is real hope that the end of this pandemic is in sight.  But this tremendous progress could be undone if we refuse to get immunized, and if new, potentially more dangerous or resistant variants of the virus emerge.  Recently, Dr. Rochelle Wolensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pleaded with Americans not to be foolish and not to let down their guard as we enter what we all hope is the last stage of this pandemic.

Instead of following the advice of public health experts, too many have been swayed by outlandish and bizarre conspiracy theories promoted by pundits that have no medical background or credibility in the field of infectious disease.  This is the equivalent of receiving a cancer diagnosis and instead of seeking eхpert treatment from Memorial Sloan-Kettering the individual would rely on the judgment of witchdoctors and Tarot card readers.

These misinformation elements are also in full force in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is taking “active measures” to discredit Russia’s vaccine competitors and to undermine public confidence in public health policies, both in Ukraine and across Europe.  Rather than uniting to promote the vaccination effort, politicians in Ukraine as well as in the United States are using vaccine policy as a political football.  It’s worth considering the sobering fact that as of this writing, Ukraine has already lost over 40,000 people to this virus.  That is more than twice the number of people that have died in the devastating war in the Donbas.  Mr. Putin would love nothing more than to see thousands more Ukrainians die of a disease that is now becoming preventable.

There are several steps that we can take here in the diaspora that could make a difference, that could still save thousands of lives.  We call on all our colleagues in the Ukrainian Medical Association of America (UMANA), the Ukrainian World Congress and other institutions to become outspoken in spreading this message to our fellow Ukrainians – both here in North America and in Ukraine:

  • Please get vaccinated. The best way to keep the coronavirus from dominating us is to get the vaccine as soon as possible, and to prevent any further surges in the pandemic.  Despite all the reports of this being a political issue in the U.S., please note that all our former presidents including Donald Trump and our current President Joe Biden, have received the vaccine. Political opponents such as Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy have also happily accepted the vaccine along with numerous other members of Congress, governors and local politicians have also made it a point to vaccinate themselves, many of whom are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Actions really do speak louder than words as we can all agree that vaccination will be our best route to a post-pandemic era.
  • Realize that the approved vaccines work and they are safe. In the U.S., the vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have been approved for emergency use and have been thoroughly and rigorously tested and have been found to be tremendously effective. Approved vaccines in Canada include those developed by Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Jannsen. The recent U.S. pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shows the emphasis on assuring the safety of all vaccines.  There is always a small risk of an adverse reaction to any vaccine, but the risk of contracting COVID-19 is far greater and the potential health ramifications can be much more serious.
  • Be critical thinkers and stop the spread of disinformation and misinformation. Stop listening to any medical information that may be coming from dubious sources (e.g., New Eastern Outlook, Oriental Review, RT and other media outlets with Russian ties, and its trolls, bots, hacks or conspiracy mongers). Critical thinking is always better than wild speculation. If a conspiracy theory sounds outlandish, far-fetched, insane or absurd, it almost certainly is. For example, the notion that vaccines implant tiny tracking devices in your body is as absurd as the notion that little green men from Mars invaded Crimea.
  • Follow the public health recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus. For the time being, mask wearing, awareness of physical distancing, being wary of large group gatherings, and hand washing remain key elements of the fight against the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already taken the lives of too many of our beloved friends and family members – both in Ukraine and here in North America.  The best we can do is to trust the medical and public health experts, researchers, and scientists that have worked heroically to combat this terrible scourge.  It would be an unspeakable tragedy if we were to miss this chance to finally defeat this virus.  This is no time for bogus skepticism or what our ancestors would have called “syromudrist.”  It is up to us to demonstrate the wisdom, the maturity, the common sense and common human decency to take full advantage of this vaccine so we can protect ourselves, the people we love, and our local and global communities.  We are all in this together!

Renata Roman, BSc, PT
Chair of Pandemic Committee
Ukrainian World Congress

Peter Derkach, MD, MSc
Medical director
Ukrainian Canadian Care Center
West Park, Long Term Care Center (Canada)

Daniel Hryhorczuk, MD, MPH
Professor emeritus
University of Illinois School of Public Health
International member, Ukrainian Academy of Medical Sciences

Yuri (George) Huculak, MD
Ukrainian World Congress

Petro Lenchur, MD, PhD, FACC, FSCAI
Ukrainian Medical Association
of North America

Michael Lewko, MD, FACR, FAGS, CMD
Pandemic Committee vice-chair
Ukrainian World Congress

Boris D. Lushniak, MD,
Dean and professor
University of Maryland School
of Public Health
Former acting U.S. surgeon general and deputy U.S. surgeon general

Oleksa G. Rewa, MD, MSc, FRCPC
Assistant professor and associate chair
Department of Critical Care Medicine
University of Alberta, Canada

Andrew Ripecky, MD
Immediate past president
Ukrainian Medical Association
of North America

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