Alabama Ready: COVID
Question: Medical “experts” keep changing their minds. Why should I trust them?
Answer: Good healthcare involves changing practice when new information comes out to say one way is best or at least better. For centuries people were bled, given leeches, prescribed laxatives or medications to cause vomiting, and many other seemingly odd things, all because it was thought to be the best way to cure disease. With time, medical professionals learned that those methods did not work, and could be harmful, so the practice of medicine changed.
Most of the changes in medicine in our lifetime have been subtle. With COVID-19, the entire world was learning about the virus at the same time. There have been some vocal and visible healthcare providers throughout the pandemic. Early advice was based on experience with previous new coronaviruses and other pandemic situations. The experience has been humbling to many in the medical community. As medical experts have learned more about the virus and what is and is not helpful in managing it, some of that advice has evolved.
The changing information about COVID-19 is frustrating to everyone. It seemed as if the changes were finally slowing down, and our understanding was becoming more concrete. However, the variants, or mutations, in the virus started to appear. It is impossible to know what mutations will occur, who they will affect, the way they will act, and if they can be prevented or treated. Mutations occur with other viruses. The best example is with influenza and how good or bad the flu season is from one year to the next. Unlike influenza, which requires a new vaccine each year, right now the COVID-19 vaccines seem to provide protection from the currently known variants.
It is understandable to not trust the medical experts that you see on the news and other media outlets. Trust is something that generally must be earned over time. The best person to talk to about the vaccine is your trusted doctor or pharmacist. You trust their opinion on other areas of your health, and you may be more comfortable making a decision after discussing it with someone you already have a relationship with.
Marilyn Bulloch, Associate Clinical Professor, Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy
New July 2021, Q&A – Trusting Medical Experts