EDITIORIAL

Vaccine hesitancy will stall our return to 'normal'

Posted 5/5/21

It seems as though we've been awaiting the coveted "return to normal" from a pandemic-stricken world for years now. And that's because, unbelievably, we have been waiting for over a year. There are reasons to be optimistic about having a "normal" Rhode

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EDITIORIAL

Vaccine hesitancy will stall our return to 'normal'

Posted

It seems as though we’ve been awaiting the coveted “return to normal” from a pandemic-stricken world for years now. And that’s because, unbelievably, we have been waiting for over a year.

There are reasons to be optimistic about having a “normal” Rhode Island summer too. Restrictions are being lessened and the plan as of this moment is to allow full use of our beloved beaches. With an increasingly vaccinated population, outdoor and even indoor dining seems safer than at any point in post-COVID memory.

Air traffic at T.F. Green is showing signs of recovery, from a high of nearly 7,000 passengers screened on April 16, 2019, to a low of 116 screened on April 16, 2020. This past April 16, about 5,000 people went through security. This is tremendously encouraging for the hospitality industry in Warwick and all of Rhode Island.

Still, although Rhode Island currently boasts one of the best vaccination rates in the country – with well over half the population receiving a first dose and about 38 percent of the state being completely vaccinated – it is still too early to celebrate any victory over this dreaded disease.

Stories of vaccine supplies heavily outweighing demand are common throughout every state – and Rhode Island is no exception. In fact, WPRI reports that the state is likely to receive up to 50,000 unexpected additional doses from other states that have found themselves inundated with available shots, but can’t find arms to accept them.

It seems almost unfathomable that the same nation that was leading the world in COVID-19 deaths and infection rates in the not-so-distant past – a time during which it seemed everyone was simply biding their time and hoping for a vaccine to become available as soon as possible – is now witnessing close to half its people turning up their noses at that very vaccine, which is now widely available to all but the youngest members of its society.

There are many reasons people might provide for their vaccine hesitancy, some of which are wholly ludicrous. It is appalling to hear people propagate variations of the conspiracy theory that the vaccine is somehow an insidious plot to install microchip tracking devices into the populace – particularly when people have posted and re-tweeted support of this insane concept using their GPS-enabled smart phones. News flash: they don’t need a convoluted vaccine stunt to track you – your social media addiction has that covered.

Other reasons for hesitancy can at least be understood and respected. Black Americans may be less trusting of any governmental health initiative due to historic abuses they endured in the past, such as the Tuskegee experiments in the 1930s. Others may be concerned that, since the vaccine was developed so quickly, the long-term effects of its use may not be known. Some think that the risk of developing an extreme reaction to COVID-19 is less likely than developing a severe reaction to the vaccine – so why bother?

While we can respect and understand these types of concerns, we must simultaneously refer to the facts.

Regarding the speed of the vaccine’s development, there are a few things to consider. First, the COVID-19 disease is a coronavirus (similar to the common cold and common flu). This means virologists were not starting from square one, as there is quite a lot of research into how coronaviruses function. Secondly, the infamous “Operation Warp Speed” enabled researchers to conduct various steps of the testing and approval process simultaneously, rather than being forced to complete each step one at a time. This is the key secret for how the process took a matter of months, rather than years.

Regarding the risks of the vaccine versus the risk of the virus – we have to call this one for what it is: downright wrong.

Well over 99 percent of all people who have received any variant of the vaccine have experienced common, expected, minor symptoms normally associated with getting a vaccine – such as arm soreness and cold or flu symptoms that persist for up to a few days. Many, many others experienced no side effects from the shot at all. And to quote the CDC directly:

“Over 245 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through May 03, 2021. During this time, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received 4,178 reports of death (0.0017 percent) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

It is crucial to also understand that none of those deaths have been linked in any significant pattern to suggest the vaccine itself was the cause of death. We would also point out that, even if each of those 4,178 deaths was directly caused by the vaccine, you are more than twice as likely to be randomly killed by a drunk driver any given year, which happened to over 10,000 people in 2019; a risk we all take without a second thought every time we drive or walk along a busy road.

The bottom line is that the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be incredibly safe and incredibly effective at preventing serious illness and death caused by the disease they safeguard against. COVID-19, on the other hand, has proven that it can permanently affect your respiratory system, rob you of your sense of smell and, as it has done to over 577,000 of your fellow Americans, it can kill you – no matter how healthy you are.

The risks of taking the vaccine do not in any way measure up to the risks of being unvaccinated – and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the undisputable evidence available to anybody willing to look for it. If we want a true return to normal, we must be able to overcome this vaccine hesitancy, which is based more out of fear and fiction rather than facts.

vaccine, normal

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