• Sabrina Espinoza

COVID-19 Vaccines: The Ongoing Issue of Distrust

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

With companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Astrazeneca reporting success with their COVID-19 vaccines, hope for a world with a bit of normalcy has begun to appear. A vaccine would help prevent more needless deaths and infections, as well as increase immunity among populations and lead the world to a state similar to pre-social distancing times. However, a complication concerning vaccines has surfaced: reluctant people who refuse to get vaccinated at all.

The name “Operation Warp Speed”, which is what the US government’s distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccines is called, doesn’t evoke much trust from people, especially when most vaccines usually take years to develop. In a November Gallup poll, 58% of Americans said they would be willing to take a vaccine while 42% said they would not be willing. Although the percentage of unwilling Americans has gone down from 50% (the percentage in the September Gallup poll), 42% of unvaccinated Americans would still prevent the US from reaching herd immunity.

In a WUSA article, four experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that herd immunity is estimated to be reached when 70-90% of Americans are vaccinated. While polls can be inaccurate, the Gallup poll shows that skepticism around the vaccine continues to exist among some Americans, mainly due to the rushed speed of the process.

Even people who usually get themselves and their children vaccinated are uncertain about the COVID vaccines for this reason. This lack of trust hinders the US from reaching that 70-90% mark.

However, concerns over the rushed process and uncertainty of the effectiveness are valid- it’s difficult to want to get a vaccine that could have unknown side effects and that has been deemed ready for distribution after such a short time period. The COVID vaccines are not like other vaccines in how quickly they have been approved. It’s only natural that people are skeptical. Admittedly, my family and I are too.

Still, if not enough citizens are vaccinated to reach herd immunity, efforts to decrease the spread of the virus will be much more difficult, greatly slowing the process of being able to resume activities such as school, shopping, dining in, gathering, and more. The most disastrous and terrible result would be the US “achieving” herd immunity naturally instead: 220 million Americans would need to contract the virus for this to happen. Currently, 14.6 million have had it.

Without enough vaccinated people, countless more citizens could end up dying, many will be burdened by the expensive costs of hospital care, and more infected people could suffer from the virus’ possible long-term effects. Medical workers, who are already showing signs of exhaustion and stress, will be further overwhelmed by a continuous influx of patients. The road to ‘natural’ herd immunity with no vaccine is an ugly, terrible, and tragic one.

Three former Presidents, Obama, Bush, and Clinton, have offered to take a COVID-19 vaccine on camera in order to increase trust among Americans. It’s likely that institutes like the CDC, state leaders, and public places will also participate in promoting a COVID vaccine. Celebrities and influential figures might even participate as well. Whatever the case, the situation of not enough Americans being vaccinated remains a possible one.

I won’t lie, I still have uncertainties about the vaccines and how fast they’ve been approved. It’s understandable why many people continue to display distrust towards them. But between the choices of vaccination or a long path to herd immunity, the latter will have much more catastrophic effects.