With the whole world greatly anticipating a safe and successful vaccine for COVID-19, I believe that it is imperative that everyone should at least have a solid understanding as to how vaccines are made, how they work, how they are tested, and the importance of global herd immunity through vaccines.
I decided to survey people of my age group, not only because I was interested in where they stand on the controversial topic, but also because I wanted to be able to make them feel more comfortable with vaccines if they weren't well informed about them.
I've been seeing kids my age on TV saying that they're skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine because it's beating record time, and they have little to no knowledge about how vaccines actually work. Therefore, my intentions with this particular article are for me to help clear up the uncertainty so that we can all have a better understanding of vaccines and take the proper action that is needed to flatten the curve and finally bring this pandemic to an end.
This article is very thorough, so I suggest you buckle up, put your thinking caps on, and get ready to learn about vaccines!
If now's not the great time to sit down for more than a few minutes, then be sure to come back when you're ready.
Do you receive the flu vaccine every year?
Yes: 50% Those who do understand that they are safe and effective.
No: 50% The other 50% said that they don't receive the flu vaccine every year because they either push it off and end up forgetting about it, are scared that it will give them the flu, or because they have just never received it.
However, most of those who don't get the flu vaccine every year do consider getting it in the future.
Will you get the flu vaccine this year?
Yes: 75% And those who don't get the flu vaccine annually, but sometimes do, said that they will receive it this year to prevent themselves from getting sick because for the years they didn't, they ended up getting sick.
No: 25% Those who said no said that they have never gotten it, so they don't see themselves getting it for the first time this year.
We've heard the common saying, "I got the flu shot, but I still got the flu," but did you know that vaccines are actually incapable of making you sick with the virus/disease that it's supposed to help you stay safe from?
The reason why they say they got the flu after getting the vaccine is because they actually got sick with the flu BEFORE they received the vaccine. It just took a few days to start showing symptoms, and since they already had the flu, the vaccine was no longer effective in their case because vaccines are supposed to be given before the person contracts the flu. I recently watched a video of Tiffany Haddish interviewing Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984, and he said, "You can get the flu in the flu season when you're getting the vaccine, [but] the vaccine cannot give you the flu."
People who already knew vaccines are incapable of making them sick: 50%
People who, after reading my explanation, no longer believe vaccines can make people sick: 50%
Does your high school or college require its students to stay up-to-date with vaccinations? Do you agree with this?
People who said their schools do require updated vaccinations: 87.5%
100% of those 87.5% said they agree with their school's decision because it helps "keep the campus as healthy as [it] can be" by "prevent[ing] the possible spread of illness across campuses and communities." It also "prevents an outbreak of [a previously wide-spread virus], like polio," and staying vaccinated "for those who are unable to get vaccines - whether because they are allergic or immunocompromised - is really important, and it's a good protection for people within close proximity all the time."
People who said that even though their schools do not require updated vaccinations: 12.5%
They "feel [as if] everyone should always be vaccinated." One particular response that stood out to me in this section of my survey was the following:
"I'm healthy [in the sense of staying vaccinated], in hopes that others are healthy. Same thing with COVID. I wear a mask to help you. So you should wear a mask to help me."
This concept of wearing a mask to protect others is the same with vaccines, and I feel like there's a disconnect in realizing the similarities between the two. When people think about receiving vaccines, they think of it as if it's one-sided, saying, "I don't usually get the flu, so I don't need the vaccine." However, receiving a vaccine is not one-sided. It's not just about you. They're just like masks. Wearing a mask provides protection for the wearer, although not complete protection, and it also protects the people around you. They're a two-way thing, and this concept also applies to vaccines.
What do you know about the new COVID-19 vaccine, other than the fact that it's beating record time?
People who said they don't know much about it: 62.5%
People who know "it has been fast tracked, and Moderna is working on a new type of vaccine that doesn't actually use the virus itself and it will be approved as long as it is 50 something percent effective": 25%
People who said "the new vaccines that are coming out right now are not the real deal. They haven't been tested or backed by scientists, [and therefore make them] dangerous because you don't know what it is they're claiming as a 'vaccine'": 12.5%
I asked this question with Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford University in mind, wanting to know how much knowledge they had about the specific vaccine that is being made. Maybe I should've specified that within the question, but it's okay. With these responses, only 25% showed a somewhat detailed understanding about those specific vaccines, which is why I believe that this low percentage can raise generalized concern about the vaccine - like insufficient testing, possible adverse side-effects, ineffectiveness, and an uncertainty in the creation process - in those who didn't show any detailed understanding, or those who don't strongly believe in our scientists.
Rate how skeptical you are about the COVID-19 vaccine on a scale of 1 to 10, with "1" being 10% skeptical and "10" being 100% skeptical. Justify your answers.
Some of the justifications for those who were in the 10%-30% range included the following:
"I trust the testing process for vaccinations."
"I haven't done research on it at all, but if there's a vaccination for it I'll be happy to get it as long as it's safe."
"I'm skeptical because of the fact that it's beating record time. This virus has turned the world upside down and all of a sudden they're going to have a solution. Just not totally believing it will work."
Some of the justifications for those who were in the 50%-100% range included the following:
"It takes a long time for a vaccine to be developed and tested. Anything they're coming out with right now and are offering to the general public is a hoax. A scam to get a lot of money. I believe a vaccine will come, but these supposed corona vaccines now are too soon and too fast to be the real deal."
"It needs to be tested more."
"It's a new virus to the human genome and because it may work for 1 or 2 others doesn't mean it's reliable."
"It's the rapid rate it's being tested compared to other vaccines that makes me a bit skeptical."
"With any vaccine, it takes years of research to prove its effectiveness in humans. I will expect to see research proving that it is effective in keeping people from getting COVID before I plan to get it. Also, I will want to ensure that there are not adverse side effects."
Generalize your concerns for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Concerned about the vaccine's safety and its effectiveness: 62.5%
No concerns: 37.5%
By no concerns, they mean that they understand that scientists will not mass produce a vaccine if it hasn't been thoroughly proven to be safe and effective. Yes, these stats don't match with the stats from the previous question. That's because the participant who said, "This virus has turned the world upside down and all of a sudden they're going to have a solution. Just not totally believing it will work," categorized him or herself in the 10%-30% range of skepticism, while the other people who categorized themselves in the same range did not note any concerns.
Will you get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available?
"I will want to know I am vaccinating myself with something that is truly useful rather than something that is going into my body that may or may not help." - Anonymous
Did you know, to end this pandemic, we need to reach herd immunity, and for this coronavirus, experts estimate that means at least 60% of the world needs to become immune? That's 60% of almost eight billion people [which is 4.7 billion people].
Did you know that Measles was eradicated from the United States, but made a comeback in under-immunized areas and also from international travel?
According to the Mayo Clinic, "It's estimated that 94% of the population must be immune [for measles] to interrupt the chain of transmission")".
Do you have any comments you would like to share in regards to the vaccine?
"Take them. The controversy surrounding them is unfounded."
"Get vaccinated. It doesn't make your children autistic."
I suggest watching Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix if you're interested in learning more about COVID-19 or infectious diseases in general. Would you consider watching?
For those who are worried about adverse side-effects, the vaccine's effectiveness and insufficient testing, and the whole creation process for vaccines, I've included more information on that topic. It starts with the three ways that vaccines are developed, then goes into the three different phases of clinical trials that the vaccines undergo, and ends with how the Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford University vaccines are able to fast track those clinical trials.
The first, known as the First Generation Vaccines, is the most common and oldest way of developing a vaccine.
It's done by growing a weakened version of the virus for months inside of chicken eggs before it is injected into the human body. This weakened version of the virus - incapable of reproducing or damaging our cells - then causes our bodies to have an immune response. Our bodies learn about the virus, fight it off, and develop antibodies that will help fight off the virus if the person were to actually contract that virus. "That's how we vaccinate against polio, the measles, mumps, and rubella, chickenpox, rotavirus, and for the flu. This is by far our most tried and true method, but it's a slow way of doing it."
The second, known as the Second Generation Vaccines, is a newer approach.
Instead of growing the entire weakened virus, scientists only grow a part of the virus that they believe will trigger the body into an immune response, the antigen, which will then cause the body to learn about the virus, fight it off, and develop antibodies that will help fight off the virus if the person were to actually contract the virus. And instead of growing it in chicken eggs, they grow it in yeast cells, also for months. "This is how the vaccine for hepatitis B works, and for whooping cough, and meningitis B."
The third, known as the Third Generation Vaccines, is a brand new way of developing a vaccine, and in fact, it's so new that it has never been done before.
So, if the Moderna, Pfizer, and Oxford University vaccines will be approved by the FDA, then they'll be the first ever Third Generation Vaccines. Instead of growing the whole (but weakened) virus or just one part of it, this approach does not use any part of the actual virus. That means, the vaccine does not undergo the many months that it takes to grow the virus, since there is no real virus in this type of vaccine. Instead, what's in the vaccine is actually the virus' genetic code. More specifically, only the part that instructs "cells to make copies of the spike protein [that can be found on the actual virus] as if the cells had been infected by the coronavirus." The body will then have an immune response - learning about the virus, fighting it off, and protecting the body from getting sick with the virus if it were to come into contact with the actual virus. "What makes this approach different, is that you don't need to make the virus itself to make a vaccine, [which is] a time-consuming and intensive process."
A vaccine will not be mass produced until it shows safety and (at minimum, 50%) efficacy after undergoing stringent testing that is split up into three different phases that includes thousands of people representing the different minority groups and is approved by the FDA.
Clinical trials for a new vaccine are split up into three different phases. In the first phase, "Vaccines are given to a small group of people, [then they] wait a few months, and see if any of them report dangerous side effects." In the second phase, "If everything looks good, the vaccine moves on and is given to a couple hundred people, again, to see if there are any dangerous side effects, but also to see if people's immune systems ramp up. That involves more waiting, usually months." In the third phase, "Thousands are vaccinated to triple-check for side effects and see how well it works. That's another few months or years of waiting." According to "Coronavirus, Explained", a science and technology docuseries on Netflix,
"In normal times, this whole process can take around four years, testing around 5,000 people. But vaccine developers are hoping to do some of this testing simultaneously, still testing the same number of people, but all in around 18 months. It's how some candidates are moving so quickly."
This is how vaccines for COVID-19 are being fast tracked.
Instead of completing Phase One all the way through prior to starting Phase Two -- and instead of completing Phase Two all the way through prior to starting Phase Three -- the clinical trials have been compressed. Instead of taking approximately four years to complete this whole process, performing these three phases simultaneously allows the process to be shortened (or compressed) to approximately eighteen months. The same amount of approximately five thousand people are still being tested just like they would be in normal times, and the next phase of clinical trials still don't start unless the FDA has approved of it doing so. The only difference is that the three phases are no longer spread out. Instead, they're overlapping each other, compressing the amount of time it takes to fully complete the clinical trials.
As I was reading through everyone's submissions for my vaccine survey, the consistency of concern about the COVID-19 vaccine's overall efficacy and testing stood out to me. So, if you've made it this far, I hope I was able to clear it all up for you, and thank you for taking the time to read it all the way through!
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