Why I got vaccinated: Dr. Neil Isaac

Dr. Neil Isaac

Why I got vaccinated: Dr. Neil Isaac

The last year of the pandemic has been hard for everyone. Each person has experienced the pandemic in their own way. The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has brought a palpable injection of hope that we will soon be reunited with all our loved ones and resume some normalcy.

At the time of writing this issue of The Pulse, Ontario is well underway vaccinating people in the Phase 1 category that include:

  • Long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents, essential caregivers, and staff
  • People who are 70 years of age and older (born in 1951 or before)
  • Health care workers in hospitals and the community, beginning with the highest risk groups  
  • Indigenous Adults (16 years of age and older)
  • Adult recipients of chronic home care
  • Other populations who are most vulnerable to contracting and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19

As vaccinations expand across the province, The Pulse sat down with Dr. Neil Isaac, Radiologist and the Division Head for Cardiac Imaging at North York General Hospital’s Department of Medical Imaging, to ask him why he got vaccinated, how he came to his decision and what he would tell others about getting vaccinated.

Dr. Neil Isaac at Vaccination Clinic
Dr. Neil Isaac at NYGH's Vaccination Clinic

Q: Why did you decide to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it was offered to you?

I decided to get the vaccine because I had enough of worrying.  Enough of not seeing my elderly father or mother in law, or my kids missing out on their interaction with their grandparents and birthday parties. I had enough of being somewhat isolated from friends and family.  Enough of not being able to eat out with friends, go to restaurants, or go to a store/gym!

Most importantly, I got the vaccine as I think it is my responsibility to my patients – I do not wish to make them ill, and I do not want to worry about contracting something from them, when I should be pre-occupied with taking care of them. I also got it to protect the many communities in which I function – be it the hospital community, my immediate neighborhood, my colleagues, and friends.

I also got it because the COVD-19 crisis has disproportionately affected Blacks, for a myriad of different factors.  So, I also got it as a show of solidarity with my Black community in Toronto, Ontario, and Canada. It is a privilege to get it and improve my health outcome, and hopefully others will follow.

Q: Did you have any doubts about the vaccine and how did you address them?

The main concerns I had about the vaccines were about how they developed it so quickly, and how they knew it was safe.

The second one was easy to solve, as they had done clinical trials on thousands of individuals. These people were monitored closely, and reported very few side effects, if any at all. In fact, the main “side effects” were symptoms showing that the vaccine was working. I also looked at the breakdown of the populations in the studies and saw that it was representative of the population of Toronto.

In looking up the vaccine, I learned that mRNA vaccines have been in development for many years. I learned about Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett at the National Institute of Health (NIH). She is one of the NIH’s leading scientists behind the search for a vaccine. Dr. Corbett is part of a team at NIH that worked with Moderna, the pharmaceutical company that developed one of the two mRNA vaccines that is more than 90% effective.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant about getting vaccinated?

The vaccine is safe. It has been used in the hundreds of millions around the world by now, and people are not having any problems with it. Thanks to the vaccine countries like Israel, with an aggressive vaccine roll out, is returning to normal.

To those who feel like they might be guinea pigs, or that the vaccine has not been tested enough, I would say look at who is getting the vaccine.  Look who is first in line. It’s healthcare workers, doctors and nurses and other frontline personnel who know the science, but also in some countries’ politicians and those with means. These are not people who take things lightly. These are people who take their health seriously, and quite frankly would not risk it on an unsafe vaccine, as their position in life allows them the convenience of not having any issues self-isolating or waiting out the pandemic.

I would also say that it does not interfere with your DNA. While mRNA sounds like DNA, they are not the same thing.  mRNA brings a message from your DNA (hence the “m”), to make a protein.  It is unstable and degrades quickly in the body.  I think of it as basically if you eat a steak (protein), you do not become a cow.  Cow DNA does not get incorporated into your DNA.

If you are in the eligible groups, you can now book your COVID-19 vaccine directly online. You can also visit our website for a list of frequently asked questions and available resources to help you make an informed decision.  

This article first appeared in the February/March 2021 issue of The Pulse.

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