‘I’m a doctor; but my decision whether to get vaccinated went beyond science’

Mark Scheurer, M.D.
January 19, 2021
Dr. Mark Scheurer, chief for Children’s and Women’s Services at the Medical University of South Carolina, gets his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Mark Scheurer, chief for Children’s and Women’s Services at the Medical University of South Carolina, gets his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As COVID-19 vaccines arrived at the Medical University of South Carolina, it might have seemed like a slam dunk for doctors, nurses and staff to decide to take the shot. But we’re humans like everyone else, and our decisions were more complicated than you might imagine.

Perhaps it should go without saying, but this should be acknowledged up front: It’s been an unbelievable 10 months.

The manner in which this year has challenged, enlightened, hardened or even perhaps weakened us has left an imprint on each of our lives.

I believe I have the best job in South Carolina. As chief for Children’s and Women’s Services at MUSC, I am in a position to help and support teams that care for the children and mothers of our state as a part of a dynamic, innovative health system.

As a pediatric cardiac ICU physician, I have been privileged to see how thoughtful decision-making can impact people at their most challenging times and in their most vulnerable states. I’ve been in a position to see these teams, and families, respond and live up to the challenges of 2020.

In our emergency room, clinics and hospital rooms, I’ve seen the impact that this pandemic has had on our kids and the preview of what are likely lasting effects.

However, when considering the possibility of receiving a novel vaccine for COVID-19 for myself, I intentionally tried not to turn to these professional experiences and responsibilities for guidance.

Instead, I reflected personally, as each of us must do, as waves of vaccination opportunities move forward in the coming months.

In my house, there are two smart, funny and thoughtful teenagers who desperately want to get back to, or perhaps move forward to, a more normal adolescent life.

In my house, my parents are not here. Our long-laid plans to bring them together with us as one family, under one roof, have been delayed by the terrible but necessary choice that they be separate from us.

We don’t want to inadvertently introduce an infection that might make them suffer or even kill them.

And in my house, I’ve watched an incredibly dedicated and thoughtful wife and mother balance our family’s needs and uncertainties with the needs to work tirelessly to help develop testing capabilities for a health system and now to help lead the distribution of a novel vaccine in a fair, equitable and efficient way.

So, after thoughtful review of the scientific literature that exists and in balance of risks we can’t always calculate, I got vaccinated Thursday.

I got vaccinated because I believe in the science that created it, while acknowledging the limitations that any study or research endeavor bears.

I got vaccinated because I believe it will make it safer for me to come home to my family and not harm them or others in the community.

I got vaccinated because I believe it is a very, very small, but necessary step that many of us will take as citizens to help our society stabilize and move forward to the work ahead.

I got vaccinated because, as my father would likely say, I was fortunate enough to have the option.

About the Author

Mark Scheurer, M.D.
Chief for Children’s and Women’s Services

Keywords: COVID-19