Wear your seatbelt. And your mask.

Buckle Up

By John Casey, DO, MA, FACEP, FACOEP
US Acute Care Solutions National Director of Scholars, National Clinical Governance Board

I have the deepest appreciation, love, and respect for all of the medical staff tirelessly working on the front lines of this pandemic.

Anyone who knows me knows of my deep passion for teaching and medicine. A friend asked me to share my explanation of the “why” of using masks and vaccinations, even if you can do all the right things and STILL die, with the hope of helping somebody on the fence choose what they are going to do. Here it goes:

The things we do in this pandemic are like driving a car. Every driver learns and is expected to follow the rules of the road. This is so everyone has a fair chance at survival out there, and it isn’t just chaos. Rules may conflict with a personal choice you’d make (like driving backward down a one-way road) but a small sacrifice of personal convenience is for the greater good.  This is wearing masks when we are indoors with others, and anytime we are sick. It works best for society and does a little bit personally to keep you safe. Simple actions on the roadway dramatically reduce death…same with COVID. Do collisions still happen, and people die? Yup, but not as much as if it were a free-for-all.

What about personal safety though? That’s the seat belt. By the way…. required by law. Not popular at all when first proposed. Some people still don’t wear them. Some people do it only because they are made to do so. Whatever the reason, a lot of people wear them. They may help the public a little, because if you wreck and have one on there’s far less chance you’ll be seriously injured or die. This may mean less need for emergency response, or maybe you’ll stay conscious after a collision and avoid a second impact. That’s great, but really…it’s about the best chance of keeping yourself alive for you and those that love you (like your kids and grandparents). Can you follow the road rules AND wear a seatbelt and still die? You bet. Same with the vaccine…but the odds are strongly stacked in your favor.

If all that fails, we have airbags. They’re a system of last resort. If you did all the other stuff right the airbags are there to help you out even more. If you didn’t follow the rules or wear a seatbelt…they’re still there working for you but it’s a struggle bus to survive a bad crash with just airbags. Those airbags? That’s the healthcare system (EMS, doctors, nurses, techs, housekeeping, protective services, disaster teams, hospitals, stockers, and it goes on and on) – trying to save you no matter what you did before the collision. Just like we’re doing now for those incredibly sick patients we are all seeing.

Can you follow the rules, belt up, have airbags deploy, and STILL die? Yup. Same with wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, and ending up in the hospital. That’s life. You did all you could do for yourself and those around you, though.

For those who were waiting for a COVID vaccine to become approved by the Food & Drug Administration, that time is now. The FDA granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older on Monday as the death rate climbs daily. They agree that it meets the rigors of its existing high standards for vaccines in the U.S. and reviewed data from 44,000 participants from clinical trials in the U.S., the European Union, Turkey, South Africa, and South America. Federal health agencies will continue monitoring the vaccine’s safety.

Wear a mask when you need to and get vaccinated. I’ll do my best to be a really good airbag either way.

Still have questions about the vaccine? Learn more here about the COVID-19 vaccines available. If you need to schedule a vaccination, please visit your county’s health department website to check procedures.