Trust science, protect your community — get a COVID-19 vaccine when available

To the Editor:

Herd immunity through vaccination is how we can protect our most vulnerable neighbors — the elderly, the immunocompromised, babies, and those with preexisting conditions. With the COVID pandemic death toll over 200,000 and counting, the best thing to do to limit the spread of this deadly disease is get vaccinated when a vaccine is released.

So why doesn’t everyone want to get vaccinated against coronavirus?

Americans today tend to believe that 35 percent of the population will not take the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. Although this may or may not not be surprising, as Americans have historically been suspicious of vaccines, it is really important right now to trust doctors and scientists.

In discussions of vaccines, a controversial issue is whether vaccination should be required. Some argue that the potential adverse effects of some vaccinations make them an infringement on personal freedom, and that rushing the development process could lead to side effects or to an ineffective vaccine.

On the other hand, others contend that vaccines are the safest and best way to protect against a disease, and as many people as possible should receive vaccinations to protect those who medically cannot.

It has become common today to dismiss scientific research as a “difference in opinion,” rather than the peer-reviewed, fact-based field it is. A number of scholars have recently suggested that most vaccines are extremely safe, and older studies linking vaccines with disorders like autism have since been refuted.

Gardasil, the HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine, is an example of a more recent vaccine which worldwide studies have found to be extremely successful. Gardasil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and is still widely regarded as almost 100-percent effective and safe over 10 years later.

In addition, the coronavirus vaccine is not being “rushed.” All vaccines are heavily tested before their release to the public to eradicate or minimize these adverse effects, over the course of months or more often, years.

The 35-percent statistic comes from a Gallup survey conducted this July, and the probability actually varies a lot depending on political affiliation, age, and ethnicity. For example, 41 percent of parents with children under 18, and 40 percent of non-white Americans, said they would refuse the vaccine.

And in terms of political party, there is significant variation; 19 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of independents, and 53 percent of Republicans surveyed said they would refuse the vaccine.

While it is true that one survey recorded a 35-percent COVID vaccine refusal rate, it does not necessarily follow that these statistics will be true when a vaccine becomes available, several months from now.

Anyone familiar with the statistics of polls should agree that intent does not necessarily translate to behavior. People can, and likely will, change their minds by the time an actual vaccine is available. When a coronavirus vaccine does become an option, it is important that everyone who can get vaccinated, does.

And in the meantime, practice social distance, wear a mask, and take care of your body. Trust science, protect your community. It’s what good neighbors do.

Marcy Forti



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