2020 was a dark year for many of us. From the rapid shutdown of schools to the eerie lack of people on the street, the COVID-19 pandemic had, and continues to, completely alter our definition of normalcy. But in that dark tunnel, there was a flash of light: the creation of the COVID-19 vaccines. Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson raced to create effective vaccines, and soon after, millions of people started to get vaccinated. State governments began to loosen restrictions and suddenly it became common to see people without a mask- a sight that was uncanny to us, who have spent the last year seeing nothing but masks. Vaccination rates shot up as people who wanted to become vaccinated received the shots, but the rates have begun to slow down. People are voicing their concerns regarding the vaccines, and every day we get further and further away from achieving herd immunity, or when a large percentage of a community is vaccinated so the spread of a disease becomes unlikely. According to researchers, about 75%-85% of the population will need to be fully vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. To put this into perspective, 53.3% of the population is currently vaccinated (as of June 17, 2021). A minimum of 22% of the population, or 72.2 million people, need to be fully vaccinated. While this may seem easy to achieve in a couple months, we need to recognize that vaccination rates have slowed down significantly, and the cause of this, the reason we cannot put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, is vaccine hesitancy.
What is vaccine hesitancy?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccine hesitancy is a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccine services”. The cause of this hesitancy varies from person to person; some people may be afraid of needles, while others may have strong beliefs against vaccines. Although these are valid concerns, it is important to work towards defeating these obstacles so that our communities can become safer and healthier.
What are some common concerns about the vaccine?
“The side effects are dangerous!”
This belief is false-- millions of people get vaccinated a day, and the chances of something going wrong are extremely minimal. Think of it like going on a rollercoaster-- there are so many people who ride it everyday, and nothing happens to them; you will be safe too. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, it’s always beneficial to check in with a doctor beforehand. Otherwise, you will be fine! Common side effects are no worse than the flu: sore muscles, headaches, fatigue, nausea, and maybe a fever. Take it as a sign that the vaccine is working, and soon, you’ll be able to go outside without constant fear of being hospitalized from COVID-19. Even in the case that something does go wrong, trained medical professionals are ready to assist. Don’t forget to make sure to let someone know if you are having extreme side effects.
“The vaccines came out very quickly-- how do I know they were properly tested?”
mRNA technology has been around for a long time-- since 1990! The use of mRNA technology in COVID-19 vaccines has just popularized the idea; there’s lots of scientific ideas that the common person does not know about, and they only become common knowledge when something like the COVID-19 pandemic comes around.
“I’m super scared of needles.”
When I went to get my vaccine, I was a bit anxious too. The people at my vaccine center made sure to guide me through the entire process, and I was told several times that if I felt as though I was about to pass out from fear, or if I just have a fear of needles or blood, I should let the people administering my vaccine know. If you have a fear, let the vaccinators know! They will make the experience a lot less scary for you. Besides, the vaccine needle itself is relatively small. I barely felt it!
“I am healthy and young, so why should I take it?”
Herd immunity. Even if you have not contracted COVID-19 before, or if you are generally healthy and young, you are still at risk of endangering yourself and your community. If you take the vaccine, you are not only protecting yourself, but you are also helping your community achieve those herd immunity numbers.
There are several other concerns about the vaccine, some more far-fetched than others. Whatever your concerns may be, make sure you talk to your doctor-- they will assist you through the entire process.
I’ve been hearing about vaccine incentives. What are those, and how can I get some?
Companies and states across the country have been offering incentives for those who get vaccinated. California is holding a vaccine lottery, where they are offering anything from free tacos at Taco Bell to $1.5 million dollars. Other parts of the country are also participating in their own incentives-- here’s a list of companies that offer free/discounted things if you show up with your vaccination card. These are more tangible rewards for getting the vaccine.
Although you may be apprehensive about getting the vaccine, it is extremely important that everyone does their part to push the country to herd immunity, therefore slowing the spread of COVID-19. We can do it-- we just need everyone to help out. Find your local center and get your vaccination today!
If you’ve already been vaccinated, thank you! Although it is still best to wear your mask, have fun with looser restrictions!