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Will a COVID-19 vaccine be able to aid in America’s efforts to return to normalcy? 

As the number of coronavirus cases in the United States surpasses 14 millionAmericans are eagerly awaiting an FDA approved vaccine. With a vaccine comes the possibility of a return to normalcy, but some Americans are still skeptical of the potential side effects of a vaccine, how the vaccine will be distributed and who the initial receptors of the vaccine will be.

Side effects of the vaccine include, “fatigue, muscle soreness and aches, joint pain, headache, and pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.” Doctors are preemptively warning those who take the vaccine of its side effects, so as to not deter people from getting the vaccine out of fear. Some patients have refused taking the second dose of the vaccine as a result of adverse side effects, and fear of what those might mean. 

“Just because you’re sore doesn’t mean that (the vaccine) didn’t work or wasn’t effective,” said Dr. Melanie Smith, one of the leaders of the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. “It just means that your body responded the way it’s supposed to. It’s important to take both doses or that first dose was all for nothing.” 

Although it makes sense that the side effects of a largely untested vaccine are raising questions and concerns, the technologies being used in the vaccine have been studied for years to potentially fight against the flu, Zika, rabies and certain forms of cancer.

The two companies creating the first rounds of vaccines, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, use new mRNA technologies, the first of their kind to potentially be licensed in the United States. mRNA vaccines combat the virus by giving instructions to the body “in the form of messenger RNA” to produce the spike protein of the coronavirus strain. 

This process triggers the immune system to create antibodies to fight off the virus, and equips the immune system to fight the virus in the future. The vaccine’s first dose serves to prepare the body, and the second to “boost the response.”

So who will receive the vaccine, and what demographics are prepared to face the accompanying side effects? Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines combined are expected to vaccinate 20 million people when the vaccines are granted emergency user authorizations later this December.

According to the CDC, the number of critical frontline healthcare workers that need to be vaccinated is around roughly 24 million. States such as California, which boast a large population and large number of coronavirus cases, are resorting to prioritizing certain healthcare workers over others. According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the vaccine’s first phase of distribution will prioritize, “health care workers, those in congregate care settings, first responders and other critical infrastructure workers.”

Newsom’s implementation of his strongest coronavirus lockdown since the spring speaks to the fact that mass vaccination is not likely to occur for mass distribution until sometime between the spring and summer of 2021

Although many Californians, as well as other Americans, are frustrated with increasingly heightened COVID-19 restrictions. Once again, there is a certain urgency and necessity to the situation that must be accounted for. 

As the number of cases continues to climb in California — so much so that the ICU capacity in So-Cal fell to under 15% — it’s time to address the pandemic with an increased sense of responsibility and severity. 

Although a vaccine could drastically improve the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be many months between now and a time when a vaccination will be readily available for mass distribution to the public. The only way to help California and the rest of the United States return to normalcy is to wear our masks, do our part and obey the stay at home orders.