The vote Thursday by a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel to recommend an emergency use authorization for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is an important and welcome step in our battle to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vaccinations are now underway with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People will begin received inoculations of the Moderna vaccine just days from now if the FDA approves the recommendation of its advisory committee of experts.
The United Kingdom and Canada have also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and other nations will likely soon be doing so as well. Because COVID-19 has spread worldwide, a worldwide vaccination program will be needed to wipe out the disease.
It’s an indisputable scientific fact that vaccines are among the most effective — and safe — treatments ever devised by medical science. Widespread dissemination of COVID-19 vaccines is the fastest route to the pre-pandemic normal we all desire.
Inoculations like these will be essential to end the nightmare of hospitalizations and deaths that has had such suffering around the world. But vaccines are useless until they are injected into our arms. We must, quite literally, roll up our sleeves and get to work to put the coronavirus pandemic into the history books.
Unfortunately, polls tell us that many Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated. According to a recent Gallup poll, more than one-third of the U.S. population — including half of Republicans — is not willing to get the COVID-19 shot once it’s widely available.
A separate poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation published this week was a little more optimistic, finding that just over one-quarter of the public was hesitant about getting the vaccine.
Vaccine skepticism has been on the rise since before the novel coronavirus spread across the world. A poll in January found that only 84% of U.S. parents thought it was important to vaccinate their children — down from 94% nine years earlier.
That same survey found that more than one in ten Americans believe that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. This is a badly misguided and dangerous view.
Unfortunately, antipathy towards vaccines has grown from a fringe view to a mainstream position. Part of this phenomenon is circumstantial. Coronavirus vaccines are entirely new and were developed in less than a year. So some people believe they must be unsafe.
Many Americans are taking a wait-and-see approach to the new vaccines. They’ll get the shot in round two, so to speak, rather than being early adopters.
But just because coronavirus vaccines are new doesn’t mean they’re untested. In fact, the most promising vaccines have undergone rigorous testing for safety and efficacy.
The Phase 3 placebo-controlled trial for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine included 44,000 participants. During the course of that trial, the FDA identified no safety problems significant enough to hold up emergency use authorization.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have proven roughly 95 percent effective at preventing people from becoming ill with COVID-19.
Sadly, these results haven’t assuaged the fears of many Americans. Some of the groups most reluctant to inoculate against COVID-19 are those that have been most severely affected by the coronavirus.
For instance, 35% of Black Americans say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated, according to this week’s Kaiser poll. Yet Black Americans have been 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and 2.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than non-Hispanic whites.
It’s also surprising that many Republicans have become vaccine skeptics — 42 percent, according to Kaiser’s poll. They are sadly misguided.
First, vaccines should not be a partisan issue. No disease has a political party affiliation.
Second, keep in mind that President Trump was among the first world leaders to bet big on medical research to get us out of this mess. His administration’s Operation Warp Speed deserves much of the credit for the fact that we have developed vaccines mere months after the coronavirus landed on our shores.
In fact, history will likely judge the development of COVID-19 vaccines to be among the Trump administration’s greatest accomplishments. Republicans should join Democrats in embracing this life-saving achievement by getting vaccinated.
A public education campaign is needed to gain wider public acceptance of coronavirus vaccines.
As more and more people get vaccinated and don’t suffer any ill effects, we can expect growing numbers of Americans to take advantage of these life-saving inoculations.
COVID-19 vaccines are medical marvels that offer a path back to the days of family vacations, restaurant meals, weddings, and casual, face-to-face interactions. They’ll usher in the return of school recitals, live sporting events, and holiday gatherings with loved ones.
The vaccines are also key to restarting our economy and getting Americans working again.
But for these shots to deliver on their promise and give each of us our lives back, Americans need to set aside any misgivings they might have and get vaccinated. Remember, the life you save by getting vaccinated may that of one of your loved ones or your own.