In our opinion: A vaccine won’t save lives, but Americans getting vaccinated will
A COVID-19 vaccine will be instrumental in reversing economic decline, saving lives and getting the country back on its feet. It’s up to people to accept it
No matter how many billions of dollars the U.S. spends on creating and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, the drug’s effectiveness boils down to a single factor: personal responsibility.
Put another way, “Vaccines don’t save lives,” says one health expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Vaccinations save lives.”
It’s hard to imagine apathy toward an effective vaccine given how much the novel coronavirus has disrupted home life, pocket books and relationships. Yet, fear and misinformation have proven a dangerous combination in the past, and it’s a mix that seems to be cropping up in the current crisis.
One concern is a vaccine may be developed too quickly, thus skirting the standard protocols for safety and giving Americans pause before accepting it. Another is a general distrust of the government’s motives should it require everyone to be vaccinated.
We don’t discount those feelings. “It’s completely normal and healthy to have questions about a vaccine right now,” said Kelly L. Moore, associate director for immunization education at the Immunization Action Coalition. It’s been a tumultuous few months with what seems like endless feeds of conflicting — or overtly false — information spreading with ease across social media.
But for all the energy being plowed into some of the fastest vaccine developments to date, there’s no reason to believe the work will be compromised.
Drug companies and regulatory agencies have been following all the right rules. The exception is Russia’s vaccine, named Sputnik V, which President Vladimir Putin insisted should skip final trials and go straight to mass production, even though it had only been tested on 38 people. But the medical community quickly raised the red flag, showing its independence and commitment to scientifically ethical standards.
For the other 170 or so vaccines in production around the world, the work has gone forward as it should. Three of the six promising candidates in the U.S. are now in phase III trials, where tens of thousands of volunteers will receive the drug as researchers take notes. With those numbers, effectiveness or deficiencies become apparent quickly.
The U.S. has already pledged to purchase hundreds of millions of doses of several drugs in trial, with the option to purchase more in the future. Distribution will be another challenge, but with the right planning it can be accomplished so that the right populations get the vaccine first.
But that’s where personal responsibility can derail the whole operation. If people are still wary of accepting the drug once it reaches pharmacies and hospitals, the fight against the virus will protract. A model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes clear that vaccinating high-risk populations with a 70% effective vaccine results in a considerable percentage of lives saved.
A vaccine won’t make the virus disappear, especially if it falls in the 60-75% efficacy range that health officials are hoping for. But it will be instrumental in reversing economic decline, saving lives and getting the country back on its feet.
When the U.S. comes forward with a scientifically sound, FDA-approved vaccine that’s been produced with the highest levels of transparency, it’s up to people to accept it, and for the good of the nation, they should.