On Dec. 11, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and authorized emergency usage of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Dec. 14 marked the beginning of the vaccine’s administration in the United States, with nurse Sandra Lindsay at Long Island Jewish Medical Center being the first person in New York to receive a vaccine. According to The New York Times, Lindsay stated, “I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history.”
Painful is certainly a word that can be used to describe the impacts of COVID-19 on American and global society. Many people have faced challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people have loved ones who are sick or have had COVID-19 themselves, while others are struggling with their mental health or trudging through economic hardships. The aftermath of the holidays, due to the significant increase in COVID-19 cases, has proven that masks and social distancing are no longer enough. For this reason, I am excited for the moment that I will partake in the vaccine.
In the midst of my joy about the approved vaccine, I was shocked to see backlash. It seemed that there had been a sudden shift from fervent advocacy to firm opposition against taking the vaccine. The Pew Research Center confirms my observation, writing that approximately half of Americans would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, which is comparable to 72% last May. They identify that the cause of this shift is “widespread public concerns about aspects of the vaccine development process.” Most frequently cited is the rapid pace with which this vaccine was developed.
Although this vaccine is one of the first that does not actually contain traces of the virus, vaccines of this type and magnitude have been researched extensively for years. Wired states that companies such as BioNTech, Moderna and Inovio have studied genetic vaccines for nearly a decade. Additionally, when reading these statistics, I started pondering the concept of herd immunity. Referencing Mayo Clinic, herd immunity happens when the majority of a population becomes immune to a disease, which ultimately limits its spread. Historically, herd immunity has proven to be an effective tool, since it controls the trajectory of a disease. When people oppose vaccination, it creates a challenge to herd immunity. In the case of COVID-19, the absence of herd immunity could further increase its spread, which could pose greater risks to American livelihood than taking the vaccine ever would.
People on the side of opposition would likely address several contradictions to my argument: the vaccine may not be as effective since the trials were much shorter than usual, people have severe allergies and are concerned with how the vaccine could affect their health or they are BIPOC and fearful of the medical community due to the current political climate. These are all valid sentiments, and I understand them, but this vaccine must be given a chance — Americans are tired and many are suffering economically. Americans are losing loved ones. Depression and anxiety are rampant, and society is craving connection and being physically together. These factors and many others mean that it is time to explore this new option.
The bottom line is this: it is absolutely your own decision if you choose to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and this decision must certainly be made on your own accord. However, whether you opt for the vaccine or not, it is still your responsibility to continue practicing the three W’s: wear a mask, wait six feet apart and wash your hands often. This will ensure that people remain as healthy as possible. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we must remain vigilant. The vaccine’s authorization is only the first step towards normalcy, and it is our duty as Americans to adhere to these guidelines for the greater good.
By Hannah Porter, Opinion Editor