Coping with Vax Side Effects

Many vaccination-resistant folks justify their hesitancy by saying there are side effects to the shot: Pain, redness and swelling in the arm; plus, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea, generally lasting a day and occurring primarily after the second shot. Many also mention blood clots in a small percentage of Johnson & Johnson recipients.

Isn’t it interesting that many of the “popular” medications used or prescribed for various conditions also list possible side effects, but these are generally ignored? I often wonder how many of those folks who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccination because of the side effects, readily take other prescription medications that have a daunting list of side effects. Even the most popular OTC pain killer, aspirin, can cause stomach irritation and bleeding, nausea, heartburn, skin bruising, and tinnitus.

Lexapro and Zoloft, popular antidepressant drugs, can produce drowsiness, dizziness, fainting, insomnia, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, decreased libido, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. Xeljanz, used for types of arthritis and ulcerative colitis, can cause liver disease, heart problems, blood clots, stomach and intestinal ulcers, kidney disease, and risk of developing certain cancers.

Lisinopril (Zestril), a drug prescribed for high blood pressure, can produce a light-headed feeling, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, nausea, weakness, chest pain, irregular heartbeats, and kidney and liver problems. Maybe you’ve seen a commercial for Entresto, which is prescribed for heart problems. Side effects include dizziness, cough, trouble breathing, elevated potassium, hypotension, fainting, and rash.

Another thing that’s interesting is that the people who justify their vaccine hesitancy by appealing to side effects, don’t seem to worry about the possible long-term effects of becoming infected. There is clear and ample anecdotal evidence that post-infection problems can occur long after infection symptoms have dissipated. The coronavirus has the potential to adversely affect literally every organ in the body, and produce lingering symptoms that can pop up over months. People who suffer this way are called “longhaulers.” And yet, fear of the vaccination seems to override logical thinking about such things.

Maybe the issue is the needle, something we mentioned in last week’s blog. Receiving a vaccination involves a needle being inserted into the body. Do we have a primeval fear that penetration of the skin signifies delivery of an impurity into the body, a wound, a threat to life? News coverage repeatedly shows people having a needle inserted into their arm, and many recoil at this sight. Most prescription medications that we talked about earlier involve taking a pill, an action that arouses far less instinctive revulsion than having a needle invade your body.

One thing for certain: using side effects to justify your resistance to receiving an inoculation is a poor coping strategy because it transforms what should be a problem-solving issue into an emotional issue. That transformation focuses on fear, anger, and distrust. Those and other emotions compromise your ability to think about an issue rationally, logically, and realistically, and make you dependent on others who may not have your best interests in mind. There’s no secret to effective coping with stress. It involves focusing on solving a problem, not on catastrophizing your life in service to normal emotions that you assume make you different, incompetent, and worthless.

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