Earlier this week, companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that the preliminary results of their COVID-19 vaccine trials suggest the vaccine was about 90% effective. Although these are only preliminary tests and nothing is official yet, these results are groundbreaking. So far, there have been no known negative effects of the vaccine, which is a very good sign.
If a vaccine for COVID-19 does become available, there are still many factors to consider before life gets back to normal. In the U.S., and worldwide, factors we must consider are accessibility and vaccine hesitancy.
Having proper access to vaccines is a major problem all around the world. In the U.S., this lack of access due to the fact that health care in general is extremely expensive and inaccessible to many.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the plan is for the COVID-19 vaccine to be free for everyone in the U.S. However, accessibility goes beyond cost. Providers who are able to administer the vaccine need to be spread out in many communities so people do not have to travel far distances for these vaccines. For some, a time-consuming trip to be vaccinated is not feasible.
The U.S. has a problem of providing health care only to those who can afford it. We’ve seen this in the rising cost of insulin, epi-pens and primary care appointments. Long distances for COVID-19 vaccines, abortion clinics and certain mental health providers would also relate to affordability because not everyone can take time off work to go get vaccinated. This pattern cannot continue, especially with the COVID-19 vaccine, if we want life to resume to a semi-normal state. Everyone needs to have proper access to the COVID-19 vaccine, which entails ensuring it is free and available in numerous locations.
In order to make the vaccine accessible beyond the cost, there would have to be vaccine clinics and providers spread out in communities. Students should be able to get them at schools and colleges. Those in the workforce should have options at work to get vaccinated, similar to how the flu vaccine is available at workplaces. Free clinics should be set up in order to ensure those who do not fit into the two above categories get vaccinated. Similar to what the CDC did for the flu vaccine, they can set up a website for people to put in their location and find the nearest COVID-19 vaccine provider. This would help ensure that the vaccine is available all over the nation.
However, in addition to accessibility, we cannot overlook the vaccine hesitancy that has plagued the world either.
Vaccine hesitancy is the refusal or hesitancy to get vaccinated due to misconceptions regarding immunizations. Commonly known as “anti-vax,” vaccine hesitancy has become a problem around the world, especially in areas where vaccines are readily available.
According to British scientists, due to misinformation already surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine mistrust, this hesitancy could potentially affect how the pandemic is handled after a vaccine becomes available.
If people refuse to take the vaccine, this will be dangerous not only for that population but also for those who cannot take the COVID-19 vaccine for whatever reason.
There have been many misconceptions regarding COVID-19 that have been spreading since the start of the pandemic. In the U.S., these misconceptions have ranged from claims that COVID-19 has been blown out of proportion by the Democrats and that it will disappear after the election (said by none other than Eric Trump) to the idea of COVID-19 being spread through 5G networks. Unfortunately, many of these misconceptions may give rise to vaccine hesitancy, which can have extreme consequences.
If people refuse to take the vaccine, this will be dangerous not only for that population but also for those who cannot take the COVID-19 vaccine for whatever reason. Since the vaccine is still in preliminary stages, we do not know if there will be age-restrictions. For some current vaccines, there are certain immunization schedules for young children; therefore, if there is a minimum age requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine, or possibly multiple doses that need to be taken, choosing to not take it may potentially endanger the lives of these young children.
In order to prevent this, the best solution might be to make the vaccine mandatory, barring medical reasons, for students to attend schools and colleges and for those in the workforce to go back to work. There should also be verified information provided regarding the vaccine so people can feel they are making a more informed choice.
This is similar to the structure that is already in place across the U.S. Although the exact mandatory vaccines differ per state, vaccine records must be submitted to show that children have received certain vaccines to enter schools.
When the COVID-19 vaccine does become available, these are important things to keep in mind before life can return back to a semi-normal state. Vaccines must be made affordable and accessible for everyone, there must be enough information provided regarding the vaccine and they should be mandatory. These are all essential factors to consider when the vaccine finally does become available in order to keep everyone safe as life slowly gets back to the way it was before the pandemic.