By Sophia Isely
Since there is such a wealth of untrustworthy sources on the internet, it’s easy to assume the government is planning on microchipping us all with the COVID-19 vaccine or that we should simply inject ourselves with disinfectant as a replacement. On the other hand, the reliable and scholarly research about a potential vaccine can seem intimidating— let alone feeling unfamiliar and foreign to the large majority of us who are not immunologists. For many people, COVID-19 has turned into a political matter instead of concern for our populations’ general health. Even Dr. Fauci—the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for the past 36 years—believes that the political opposition to the virus has hindered the quality of our COVID-19 response. The views surrounding the vaccine could become more and more dangerous to the public health.
According to the CDC, this vaccine should be accessible to Americans around January of 2021. Many people are—understandably—concerned that the creation of this vaccine is happening so rapidly. After all, China only published the sequence of this virus on January 10th of 2020—which means the turnaround on the vaccine itself would be about a year. This shorter period of vaccine development has delivered a miscommunication to the general public; the research behind this vaccine didn’t begin during the COVID-19 outbreak. The mRNA vaccination platform that many potential vaccines will be using has been in research since the SARS outbreak in 2002-2004. Advances in this technology allow the scientists behind the vaccine to do things in months that would typically take years; the speed of this vaccine’s development is not due to discarding scientific integrity or safety, but it is instead the result of years of tedious work from researchers.
“But how do I know I won’t croak over the second I am injected with this vaccine?” Well, there are multiple vaccines in trial that are being tested on real humans. Some side effects are inevitable, but these trials are being tested on quite large numbers of people—one trial is being run with 60,000 people, another with 44,000 people, and one more with 30,000 people. According to Dr. Fauci, the researchers are also ensuring there is a diverse group of participants. The scientists controlling this research and development are ultimately looking for the safest vaccine with the highest efficacy.
Once these trials are completed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must authorize this vaccine—a process by which they would notice any sneaky microchips. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Academy of Medicine (NAM), and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) also have to review the vaccine and vaccination plans. Then, the CDC will begin Phase 1, where they will only distribute the vaccine to critical populations — i.e. places like health departments. In Phase 2, widespread doses of the vaccine will start to be accessible at our pharmacies or usual healthcare providers. Phase 3 will only be necessary if there is a need for an ongoing vaccine for COVID-19, and researchers are not yet sure whether or not the vaccine will need to be repeated like the flu vaccine. Although COVID-19 could only require a one time vaccination, Dr. Fauci states that it is also possible that this virus will recur and perhaps even become a seasonal sort of virus.
Regarding where the vaccine is coming from, the federal government has contracted a pharmaceutical distribution company called McKesson. Although it may seem scary that a manufacturer that most people have never heard of is mass-producing this vaccine, the CDC actually has a good track record with McKesson. This company successfully distributed the H1N1 vaccine amidst the H1N1 Influenza (swine flu) pandemic in 2009–2010. Perhaps best of all about this partnership, no Americans should have to pay for the vaccine or its distribution—ensuring that hopefully, no potential recipients will have to face an economic barrier.
Ultimately, there are a few vital things for you to know about the COVID-19 vaccine. First off, it is necessary for everyone who is able to get vaccinated for the protection of public health. I know it is hard to trust the government in such unprecedented times, but many scientists and committees will ensure the vaccine is safe. Although this vaccine should be crucial to stopping the spread of this virus, wearing your masks and social distancing also play a large role in controlling this pandemic. Secondly, the COVID-19 vaccine should be available in early 2021, and it should be easily accessible at your local pharmacy or healthcare clinic. Lastly: please don’t let your political views (or any myths you see on social media) negatively influence your decision to prioritize your health and the health of those around you.
For more and up-to-date information about vaccines and COVID-19, click here. To read about the mRNA vaccination platform, please click here. To see the U.S. government’s strategy for vaccine implementation, click here.
This article was featured in the Issues Issue. Check out the Issues Issue in its full glory here.