Trust science, take the vaccine

Refusing vaccination is selfish, harmful to individual and others

With more than 28 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 515,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. as of early March, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the expanding distribution of the coronavirus vaccine brings hope. However, many Americans, including members of the Miramonte community, are doubtful of the vaccine, especially because of Americans’ tendency to spread conflicting information. But the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine should be trusted by everyone, including all Miramonte staff, students, and parents in order to slow the spread of the virus.

 A Pew Research Center poll from early December 2020 reports that 39 percent of Americans say they definitely or probably will not get a coronavirus vaccination when it is made available to them. This rate has dropped significantly to around 30 percent, according to a new Pew Research Center poll from February. In a poll on Instagram asking if Miramonte students would get the vaccine when it is made available to them, 92 percent said yes while 8 percent said no. 

 Essentially, the vaccines are used to promote herd immunity, a form of protection from an infectious disease that occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to the infection. To reach this, the country needs a large enough percentage of the population to be vaccinated in order to slow the virus’s spread and protect those who cannot receive or access the vaccine. Although an exact percentage cannot be predicted yet, scientists expect that 70 to 85 percent of the U.S. population must be immune to the virus to achieve herd immunity. If we do not reach this number, vulnerable groups that are too compromised to be vaccinated will remain unprotected. 

Ultimately, the decision to refuse vaccination is selfish and proves harmful not only to the individual but to countless others.

“The science behind vaccinations has been around a long time. Simply put, vaccinations work. I can understand that some people don’t want a vaccination because they think they won’t ever get sick from a particular disease—COVID-19 in this case. However, there’s a significant portion of our human population that simply can’t get vaccinations due to legitimate health reasons. So, therefore, it is up to the people that can get vaccinated to get vaccinated so we can protect our entire population,” said Miramonte Living Earth and Human and Social Development teacher Manoa Koepp, who received a vaccination Feb. 18. 

Currently, three vaccines have been authorized for emergency use by the Federal Drug Administration. These include vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, and these mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus and do not carry a risk of causing disease in the vaccinated person. Additionally, the mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses adenovirus, which is a virus that causes the common cold modified with a gene from SARS-CoV-2 to prompt the construction of a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and stimulate an immune response to it in the body. This vaccine is safe because the adenovirus cannot replicate in human cells or cause disease, and it is effective at combating COVID-19 variants.

One common concern is that the medical technology involved in creating the mRNA vaccines is rather unconventional. Other vaccines, like the one for the flu, use forms of the inactivated or weakened virus to build immunity. Contrastingly, the COVID-19 vaccines deliver mRNA to the body. This genetic coding material contains instructions on how to make a piece of spike protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. The body creates and then recognizes this foreign protein and develops an immune response to it. This mRNA technology has been effectively studied for decades to treat the flu, the Zika virus, and even cancer. Overall, any claims that doubt mRNA because of a lack of research are completely false.

“While it is true that there have been reports of rare individuals having serious reactions from the vaccine, these occurrences are of lesser magnitude compared to the many people who become seriously ill or die from the actual virus. I think that people who refuse to take the vaccine have not looked closely at the available statistics showing that the benefits outweigh the risks, or are misinformed and believe that the risks are greater than they are,” Miramonte AP Chemistry teacher Jamie Bascom said. 

One of the biggest arguments against the vaccine is that uncomfortable side effects can occur. The coronavirus vaccines do have side effects, but so do the majority of other vaccines. Fever, fatigue, and joint pain may cause discomfort, but these symptoms generally only occur for a short time post-vaccination and are not dangerous. These feelings simply mean that the vaccine has triggered an immune response in the body and that it is working correctly. If fear of the vaccine’s side effects is what’s stopping one from being vaccinated, they may want to consider the long-lasting impacts of contracting the coronavirus itself.

Some argue that the rapid development of the vaccines means that they are not properly tested. However, this is far from the truth. According to NBC News, a major reason for the speedy turnaround on the vaccine was the decision made by the federal government to expedite its delivery throughout the nation. This decision has nothing to do with the scientific validity of the drug itself. Drugmakers were allowed to mass-produce the vaccine while simultaneously conducting clinical trials to help end the pandemic faster.

“After becoming familiar with the research used to verify the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine through the pharmaceutical companies themselves, I am confident in the vaccine and will definitely be getting it when offered the chance,” Miramonte sophomore Fiona Hughes said.

Without a vaccine, unemployment will skyrocket, food scarcity will increase, and worst of all, people will continue to die. With the emergence of well-tested COVID-19 vaccination options and more people receiving the vaccine, the transmission of the disease will slow significantly and the death rates will fall. As the vaccine becomes available to more Americans, including the Miramonte community, those of us who have the opportunity must take the vaccine. Doing so will save lives, allow us to reunite with our loved ones, and give us the opportunity to rebuild society. 

The Editorial Board of The Mirador, the Miramonte school paper, voted 12-0 in agreement that those who have the opportunity to safely get the vaccine should choose to do so in order to help the country reach herd immunity and protect society.