In three separate announcements in recent weeks, three scientific teams at different pharmaceutical companies have given a weary, frightened world what it needs: a verifiable path to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, end the suffering and start the process of returning life to the normal rhythms of “before.”
Imagine again going to work and school, to restaurants and concerts without significant risk of infection. Imagine being able to travel. Imagine hugging family members and friends. This gift of science will be ready — if we accept it.
Wait, if we accept it?
The big question about a COVID-19 vaccine has shifted from efficacy to whether enough Americans will agree to receive it. Skepticism of inoculations is frustratingly widespread, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they work. Shots are unpleasant and sometimes come with side effects. The anti-vaxxer movement has attacked vaccines in the mistaken belief they may cause autism. In the Black community, suspicions run deep because of the legacy of past abuses by the medical system.
A Pew Research Center survey in September of about 10,000 adults found that just 21% of U.S. adults would definitely get a COVID-19 vaccine, and 24% said they definitely would not. The rest were somewhere in the middle, leaning for or against. This is troubling news. If the vaccine becomes an optional response to the pandemic, the virus will continue to spread and cause harm to families and the economy.
The crucial step will be to break through vaccine anxiety, and the best way to do that is for vaccine developers, regulators and experts to share as much information as possible about the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness, and about any shortcomings.
The vaccine is coming. Get ready to accept it.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE