The Vaccine Debate During a Global Pandemic
While the world is struggling with one of the most devastating pandemics in history you would think the least of your worries would be what happens after the vaccine is found. But actually a more complicated problem has already risen that can alter the outcome.
by Kiersten Ngeow
An unmitigated disaster unparalleled in history, the global pandemic decimated the human population, killing over 760 thousand and sickened millions globally, according to the World Health Organization. Despite these unprecedented circumstances, hope emerges through the worldwide efforts to develop a vaccine. However, would enough people be willing to receive a vaccine in order to make a difference?
This may not be the case in the United States, where one out of three Americans would not be willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, even if it were free.
The refusal of vaccines consists of several concerns: the potential risks, the fear that vaccines attribute to countless other medical conditions, and the doubt surrounding safety during the development of vaccines. In contrast, those willing to receive a vaccine believe that vaccines are essential to the health of themselves and others. This is immensely attributed to the vaccines’ ability to reduce the risk of contracting deadly diseases, which also allows for protection via herd immunity—when a large portion in a community is immune to a disease, making the spread of the disease unlikely to others—to those unable to receive vaccines due to medical reasons.
So, would you be willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine? This trilemma aims to answer this question through three perspectives: those who would refuse the vaccine, those who would receive them, and the neutral outcome.
Why would someone refuse the COVID-19 vaccine?
For some, refusing the vaccine is their only choice due to preexisting medical issues such as having a weakened immune system or experiencing prior allergic reactions to a vaccine. Thus, the CDC advises certain people to opt-out of receiving specific vaccines as they can affect those individuals differently.
However, for others, refusing vaccines is a choice deeply rooted in other concerns. One of these concerns is the fear of the potential risks and conditions that can occur with vaccines. These risks, as stated by Vaccines.gov. include swelling, headaches, and mild fevers. Receiving a vaccine may also lead to serious side effects, making vaccines not a 100% safe solution for everyone. Unfortunately, when discussing the risks of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, dangerous misinformation causes fear among some individuals. Examples of this misinformation as CNN include “...media memes stating the vaccine will leave an invisible digital, trackable tattoo; that Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leader in the vaccine effort, is actually Satan; and that the vaccine will hideously disfigure your face.”
Another concern among those who chose not to be vaccinated is the doubt about the safety of vaccines. With the rapid development of the coronavirus vaccine, concerns about its effectiveness and safety arises . Despite the reassurance from the FDA that the development of the COVID-19 vaccine “will not cut corners'' doubts still remain. In an online Twitter discussion about a possible COVID-19 vaccine, one post states, “‘Warp speed’ says it all. Project has been rushed and corners are being [cut]. No point producing a vaccine that could be more dangerous than the d[is]ease....but tell that to trump. Desperate to find a vaccine for a d[is]ease he thinks doesn’t exist. Bizarre.”
Why would someone receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
Being able to receive a safe vaccine could be the next step to decreasing the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The purpose of a vaccine is to stimulate a person’s immune system to allow for the creation of antibodies, which are proteins created to help fight off infections as stated by the CDC. This allows for a person’s body to “develop immunity to that disease, without having to get the disease first” and thus preventing the disease. What this means for a potential COVID-19 vaccine is that if others choose to receive the vaccine, the risk of contracting COVID-19 would be significantly reduced.
Additionally, as mentioned before, those who choose to receive a vaccine could positively impact not only their health, but those unable to receive vaccines through herd immunity. Therefore, the more people that are vaccinated, the more likely herd immunity will occur. It could even lead to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, since herd immunity would reduce the risk of the disease spreading. But, this is only possible with a safe vaccine, one that many nations including the United States is currently developing.
When the United States launched Operation Warp Speed—a historic effort aimed to deliver safe, effective vaccines at a faster pace— speculations that the vaccine would dismiss safety over speed in its development arose due to the name of this effort “Warp Speed”. However, this will not be the case, as stated by Dr. Fauci, the nation’s leader of infectious diseases, during a PBS interview. He explained that “before you give [the vaccine] to the American public, you want to be absolutely certain that it is, A, effective, and, B, safe…” Going on to address how despite the name warp speed, the development of a possible COVID-19 vaccine is “operating at a financial risk, instead of a safety risk.”
What Do You Choose?
Ultimately the decision to receive vaccines, especially the future coronavirus vaccine is highly a personal choice for each individual. For some, it is crucial to be exempt from receiving vaccines due to medical conditions that result in adverse effects. For others, the concern of receiving a potential COVID-19 vaccine is due to the doubt about safety, whether it be potential side effects or its testing during development.
With one in three Americans refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, as Dr. Fauci states, along with him settling for a 70% to 75% effective vaccine, it is “unlikely” that the United States will be able to achieve herd immunity. This is where the issue of choosing to vaccinate becomes difficult, as it impacts the lives of not only oneself but others who lack the choice of vaccination due to other circumstances.
Regardless of which perspective you choose, it is important that the choice you make—whether or not to receive or refuse the potential COVID-19 vaccine—is an informed decision based on reliable information. Misinformation, and the fear that comes along with a potential vaccine, has the power to dictate the outcome of not only an individual’s wellbeing but those around them during this pandemic. Therefore, in order to fight against misinformation, it is crucial to educate yourself and others so that they can make the best decisions for their health and wellbeing.