The political and personal impact of a potential COVID-19 vaccine

This year, we have found ourselves continuously adapting to major societal shifts. Despite the fact that we are facing these hardships together, we have been left to grasp them all alone. 

It is only natural for us to respond with questions: How will we overcome this time of unprecedented loss? What will it take for the world to heal? How long will this continue? 

Or simply, what is next? 

The much anticipated COVID-19 vaccine has stirred global controversy as updates regarding the development of the drug have slowly been released to the public. Americans have watched President Donald Trump persistently promise a vaccine to become available in the near future. While this promise may be a source of hope for some people, others have grown more skeptical as top health officials released conflicting information about a vaccine, which has not only been contradicted by the President’s statements but has also been challenged by statements the Center for Disease Control and Prevention provided only weeks ago. 

In a letter from Aug. 27, CDC director Robert Redfield advised state governors to prepare for mass-scale COVID-19 vaccine distribution to come early November. However, as the situation developed throughout September, it has become more apparent that the release of a well-tested and effective vaccine may take more time. Redfield has since testified that a mask covering may be even more effective than a vaccine, which he suggests will take more time than originally anticipated. Trump said he believes the doctor was confused while testifying later in September.

This clash of information has made the timeline for the vaccine seem speculative and stirred up national confusion about the safety concerns that a precipitous vaccine could bring about.

Concerns about the potential politicization of the vaccine’s development have arisen as citizens have questioned the President’s intentions for the hasty development of a vaccine, bearing in mind the approaching elections in November. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden warned Americans that President Trump’s claim of an imminent vaccine is irrational. On the other hand, Trump made accusations against his opponent for the presidency calling Biden’s position “anti-vax rhetoric.” The release of a vaccine — or an empty promise of one — may possibly hold the potential to influence Donald Trump’s poll numbers as he runs for re-election during the pandemic. 

The struggle to remain optimistic for the release of a vaccine in the near-future has become even more challenging as issues arise in the process of testing potential COVID-19 vaccines. Situations such as the ordeal encompassing the AstraZeneca trial where patients became alarmingly ill after receiving the company’s experimental vaccine. This raises concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the drug. The United State’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 200,000 losses in September, and many feel unnerved as that number continues to grow in the absence of infallible certainty regarding a vaccine. 

Amongst these is Darcy Taylor, a sophomore at Azusa Pacific University, who is required to do in-hospital clinicals while she continues her education as a nursing major. Taylor is unsure about whether or not she would feel safe getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but she fears that she may be required to get one regardless to continue her studies in the hospital as a working nurse. This could jeopardize both her education and career if she were to refuse the vaccine. 

“It’s kind of uncomfortable to me, being a nursing student because I don’t know if I’d be required to get the vaccine to be in the hospital,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to risk my career by not getting the vaccine, but I’m not sure if I will want to get it if it’s released super early on. That’s not something I’m comfortable with.”

Millions of people empathize with this sentiment, uncertain of what repercussions a premature vaccine release may impose. Yet, others remain eager for any sort of solution to their pandemic-inflicted issues. Skepticism and personal opinions share the spotlight as every wave of released information ignites more concern.

Notably, there has been a push and pull in public opinion regarding the drug and its distribution. 

“Vaccines usually take years to produce and process and test whether they’ll be safe or not,” said Madison Midland, a sophomore marketing major at APU. “Seeing that this vaccine is supposedly coming out within less than a year, I can see how a lot of people can be skeptical that it hasn’t been tested enough, meaning that it’s not as safe.”

A CBS poll reported that 65% of voters said they would think a vaccine released by the end of this year would be “rushed through.” Skepticism is not a far fetched delusion; people are legitimately concerned. 

“I think that’s why people are against taking it — because it could potentially be a risk and we don’t really understand the repercussions that will happen,” Midland continued.

On the other hand, Midland believes that some would take the COVID-19 vaccine simply out of restlessness and a lack of hope for ulterior options. 

“I think people would take [the vaccine] because they don’t know what else to do,” Midland said. “I think that it might be the only thing they feel they could rely on right now, especially if they want this virus to go away quickly because people are impatient.”

As we long for a sense of normalcy to be restored in our everyday lives, the individual minds of our communities are often left to ponder the repercussions of what is currently happening — wondering about the potential impacts all of this could have. Although we still stand as a community at APU despite unconventional circumstances, we are also one that is directly affected by the world around us.

As a community, we must strive to hold onto our hope for the future while paying attention to what is unfolding before us. But with that said, we must also consider what has already happened and how potentially permanent the effects of the pandemic will be for some people. 

“I don’t think problems will just go away,” Taylor said. “I think that the effects of what is happening are possibly long-term for some people. I don’t think that things will just be happy and better after a vaccine comes out, but I do think that it might be a step in the right direction and helpful for providing some people with the hope they need.”