Covid-19 Vaccinations: A Solution for a Global Emergency

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Betty Benson, Senior Editor

It seems that there may be light at the end of this harrowing coronavirus tunnel. It’s been approximately a year since the first cases of Covid-19 arose in Wuhan, China. Since then, people across the globe have been living lives that are often read about in dystopian and science fiction novels. When will the world be able to adjust back into the lives that were once so familiar? With vaccines being fast tracked in multiple parts of the world, one could beg to differ that “normal” life will be back sooner rather than later. Covid-19 vaccines have already begun being administered in North America, as well as parts of Europe, but the process of rolling out shots has proven to be difficult. There is still much confusion, not to mention skepticism, surrounding what exactly a vaccine entails for the daily lives of people, as well when and who will have access to immunization first. 

The Approval Process and Companies Behind the Vaccine 

Pharmaceutical companies have to go through a trial process with their vaccines before they are allowed to start being administered to the public. As far as clinical trials go, there are three phases that a vaccine must go through (McKeever, 2021). The first phase determines the safety of the vaccine, and tests to see if it has any immune response when used on healthy individuals. The second phase tests the vaccine on a larger pool of people, including those that are prone to getting the virus, or may already have it. This phase is mainly used to test the vaccine’s effectiveness. The third and final phase of clinical trials deals with administering the vaccine to thousands of participants. This helps researchers and scientists gauge the different immune system responses that people will have to the vaccine, depending on age, underlying conditions, ethnicity, etc., and further ensures the effectiveness of the shot. The Food and Drug Administration has been working on fast tracking some of the many vaccines currently in the clinical trial of the overall approval process.

There are currently two different vaccines that have been approved and are being distributed in the United States, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine (CDC, 2020). However, as of December 28th, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists AstraZeneca’s, Jansenn’s, and Novavax’s vaccines as in their third phase of clinical trials. Different vaccines bring different benefits and disadvantages to the table. For example, once approved, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be one of the easier shots to administer because it doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated at such low temperatures in comparison to the Pfizer-BioNBiotech vaccine. 

Vaccine Distribution

In regards specifically to the United States, President-elect Joe Biden has announced that he plans to distribute the majority of the available vaccine doses that America has, rather than wait for those that have already begun immunization to receive their second-round of the shot (McKeever, 2021). Due to the high funding behind vaccine manufacturing, once second-round doses of the shot are needed, it’s believed that they will already have been produced, meaning there would be no shortage of the vaccine. There are a limited number of vaccine shipments sent to each state, which then get to individually decide how to distribute doses (Goodnough, 2020). States are mainly following CDC guidelines as to who should be at the top of the list for immunization. 

As far as who is beginning to receive immunization first, the CDC recommends that health care workers and those living in long-term care units are the top priority. After that, essential frontline workers (such as USPS employees and firefighters) and those that are 75 and over should be placed next in line. Individuals that are aged 65-74, 16-64 year olds with underlying medical conditions, and other essential workers (such as food service and transportation) are at the bottom of the Phase One priority listing. It’s estimated that a vaccine won’t be available for the general public until the summer of 2021 (Goodnough, 2020). 

If you’re curious as to when you might be eligible for vaccination, the following website shares information on Washington State’s distribution plan in specific: https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/vaccine 

Why is there Skepticism? 

There are many different reasons for feelings of uncertainty when it comes to receiving a vaccine for the coronavirus. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a vast survey in December of 2020 to gain insight on public opinion regarding the decision to vaccinate. It was discovered that approximately one quarter of Americans remain hesitant to vaccinate, “saying they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists” (Kirzinger & Hamel, 2020). It was found that some of the largest demographic groups that are more resistant towards vaccination are “Republicans (42%), those ages 30-49 (36%), and rural residents (35%)”. 

The results of the KFF survey were also able to glean information about the main reasons for skepticism that people had in regards to immunizations. The reasoning is as follows: “Worries about possible side effects (59% cite this as a major reason), lack of trust in the government to ensure the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness (55%), concerns that the vaccine is too new (53%), and concerns over the role of politics in the development process (51%).” Hopefully now that vaccines are beginning to be distributed, and no major negative side effects have been found yet, people will relax into the idea of getting a Covid-19 shot when the time comes. 

THS Poll Results 

A poll of student and staff feelings towards vaccination was recently conducted at Tumwater High School. Out of the 57 responses received, 33% of participants were staff members, and 66% were students. Out of the staff responses, the overall majority (68%) said that they would take the Covid-19 if it was made available to them. 16% of staffers surveyed were not sure as to whether they would receive the shot, and another 16% are not planning on it at all. On the other hand, only 26% of students said that they would be taking the vaccine when made available, 29% were undivided, and 45% would not receive immunization at all. 

Doing Our Part 

The idea behind vaccination is fast-tracking the path to herd immunity. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health describes the safest path to herd immunity, as well as how it works.  “When most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection—or herd immunity (also called herd protection)—to those who are not immune to the disease . . . if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further). In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control” (Rogers, 2020). If things were to proceed without a vaccine, a large portion of the population would have to get Covid-19, and the world would gradually gain herd immunity, but thousands of people would die along the way. The vaccine is a way to immunize people without overwhelming health care systems, as well as avoiding the deaths of those most vulnerable to the virus. 

The only way that the coronavirus can start becoming a thing of the past is if people are able to work together to stop the spread. One of the most effective ways to stop the spread comes in the form of a poke in the arm. Finding unity during times like now, when there is so much uncertainty and unrest, is extremely difficult; especially while in a digital age when any sort of information can be spread on the internet. Individuals must come to realize that ultimately, most people all want the same thing; to be able to live “normal” lives again. The fact that “normal” might mean having an extra shot to get at the doctor’s office annually is something that many may have to come to terms with. Skeptics are hesitant for good reason, more time needs to pass before everyone can feel completely comfortable with vaccinating, but at the same time, it’s also important to trust the science as well. We are all working towards a common goal. In order to reach that goal, it’s important that we do our best to work together. Whether it be through getting vaccinated when more doses are available, or doing a better job maintaining social distancing laws, if everyone does their part, the future will start to look bright sooner rather than later.

 

Works Cited

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2020, December 28). Different COVID-19 Vaccines. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2021, January 8). When Vaccine is Limited, Who Should Get Vaccinated First? Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations.html 

Goodnough, A. (2020, December 01). Who Will Get the Coronavirus Vaccine First? Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/01/health/covid-vaccine-distribution-first.html?action=click&pgtype=Article&state=default&module=styln-coronavirus-vaccines®ion=MAIN_CONTENT_2&context=styln-vaccines-faq 

Kirzinger, A., & Hamel, L. (2020, December 22). KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: December 2020. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/report/kff-covid-19-vaccine-monitor-december-2020/ 

McKeever, A. (2021, January 08). President-elect Biden announces plan to speed up vaccine distribution. Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-diseases/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker-how-they-work-latest-developments-cvd/#close 

Rogers, L. S. (2020, October 14). What is Herd Immunity and How Can We Achieve It With COVID-19? Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/achieving-herd-immunity-with-covid19.html.

Washington State Department of Health. (n.d.). Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/vaccine