Point/Counterpoint: Vaccinate Against Fear

Should We Worry About the Rush to Innoculate With Quickly Developed COVID Vaccines?

Jack Tirsch, Co-Editorial Director, Junior

After what has seemed like an endless year plagued with the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters, there seems to finally be some light at the end of the tunnel. Is it too premature to say we are finally escaping this nightmare? Many pharmaceutical companies have taken major strides in their developments for a COVID vaccine. The early human testing trials have also been generally successful with limited side effects as a result. Two of the largest pharmaceuticals to venture into vaccine development, Pfizer and Moderna, had 95% efficacy rates, as compared to the flu vaccine which generally has a 67%  rate of effectiveness. However, the vaccine could potentially expose certain health problems in specific demographics of patients if not researched and tested properly. The CDC has stated that the priority to receive the future COVID vaccine will be front line workers, which could be problematic if issues regarding the vaccine remain unresolved. Although the arrival date of the vaccine is currently unknown, any vaccine that is rushed will inevitably spawn major health concerns. However, this could be prevented if pharmaceutical companies commit to completing a greater number of test trials on volunteers to ensure the population will be safe. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has loomed large and been extremely destructive on the United States’ population since its arrival to the U.S. in March. The pandemic has inflicted around 1.5 million deaths globally and it has not yet ceased increasing its gargantuan rates. Based on this data, yes, a vaccine is extremely necessary. However, a rushed vaccine will not be conducive to stopping the virus at all. Also, promoting and distributing an unready or even incomplete vaccine could lead to large group gatherings again without any real preventative measures from the vaccine. 

Recent vaccine testing from Pfizer and Moderna found that side effects were extremely minor over their 43,000 and 30,000 volunteers, respectively. Such side effects included headaches and fatigue which is standard with many other vaccines. Also, results were consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity. But what about different health histories? Patients with extreme health issues in the past might have magnified side effects as a result of the vaccine. Granted, testing an unapproved vaccine on people with various health problems is not smart, however it is worth looking into once initial vaccine distributions have been completed.

Other pharmaceutical companies that are also currently developing vaccines, such as Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, and the University of Oxford, could offer another option for more positive results. Additionally, a more expansive testing demographic completed by a greater range of participating companies could eliminate potential threats that the vaccines have to offer. Another method to potentially improve the vaccine could be by going against simple ethics of capitalism. If many companies gathered a variety of results from their tests, they could work together to create an almost flawless vaccine with a combination of knowledge gathered from previous trials. I mean, the goal of the vaccine is to defeat the virus and return the United States to normalcy, right? 

With all that being said, a vaccine has not been released to the U.S. yet, and we do not know exactly when the public will have access to it. So until then, there can only be speculation around the safety and efficacy of the vaccine itself. Hopefully the vaccine will restore some form of normalcy and will eradicate the harsh effects of COVID-19 once it is researched and improved to its full capacity.