Anti-Vax Vexation

Why is there more skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine than others? Is it justified?

Muskan Naqvi, Staff Artist

A Pew Research Center poll claims that 39% of people are unsure of or will not get the Covid Vaccines. This concept isn’t new, going back to even the smallpox vaccine. While most of the modern “Anti-Vax” sentiments are still present now more than ever, there seems to be a widespread fear among those who usually are “Pro-Vaccine”. With misleading headlines and cases of positive post-vaccine Covid results, it’s difficult to understand what to do.  As Illinois moves into phase 1B of Covid-19 vaccination trials, it’s important to understand the benefits of vaccinations and debunk the myths surrounding the recent wave of vaccine skepticism. 

One of the most common sentiments heard throughout the vaccination progress is a fear of the vaccine being rushed. After all, the virus is only a year old, and most clinical vaccine trials taking decades to be produced, it’s understandable for there to be skepticism about the fast-paced development of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The main reason for the quick development is simply the mass attention the virus got. With the pandemic taking a hold on the media and with multiple government agencies pushing for priority, the COVID-19 vaccines simply had more people pushing for progress. In fact, the government allowed for mass production of vaccines to be put in storage as they passed clinical testing. Doses that failed were scrapped, but it allowed for those who passed trials to be shipped out quickly due to being manufactured ahead of time.

Another widespread fear for the vaccine are reports of side effects and possible genetic mutations. With the Pfizer vaccine especially, the clinical trials had been shown to have side effects such as fevers and headaches. However, the reason for this is thought to be a direct reaction to the body fighting off the virus. As explained by an NBC article, it’s an immune response triggered by the vaccine in preparation. As for the possibility of genetic mutations, it’s not likely. The Covid-19 vaccine employs new mRNA technology that is unable to affect human genomes, making it extremely difficult for mutations such as cancers to occur. While this information can be stressful, the best thing to do is just stay vigilant and keep an eye out for any of the possible short term issues that could arise after the second dose. 

When addressing government distrust and skepticism, the gap between healthcare and race must be addressed. The same Pew Research poll claims that only 43% of Black Americans are willing to take the Covid-19 vaccine. When acknowledging the long history surrounding the Black community’s relationship with healthcare and, more specifically, unethical medical experimentation, it’s understandable why there’s such a distrust with the vaccine. After all, the “Tuskegee Experiment”, where Black men were tricked into being experimented on for Syphilis, ended less than 50 years ago. The skepticism is rooted in history and extremely valid; however, with the Covid-19 vaccines, the process simply isn’t the same. As stated previously, the vaccines have gone through hundreds of trials and had to pass clinical tests in order to be approved by the FDA for distribution. It’s extremely difficult for a product to get approved by the FDA and its strict multi-stage review process. The fact that the vaccine was able to do so in such a short amount of time proves that it’s, by all current accounts, safe. Not to mention that with such an unreliable gap in healthcare, taking precautions to prevent and combat the virus is even more important to not only protect yourself but also a community that has been systemically hurt by healthcare before.

While 39%  is a small number, when it comes to the contagious nature of Covid-19, complete herd immunity is vital. Not everyone is able to get the vaccine quickly, and that 39% could stall the already slow process to eradicate the virus. If those who are eligible get the vaccine as soon as possible, the faster herd immunity can be achieved. The entire situation is new and unexpected, and the skepticism is valid; however, it’s important to stay informed and take action against the spread. As new mutations of the virus pop up and it continues to make its way throughout the community, vaccinations are the first step in leveling the playing field and creating a safe environment for everyone.