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To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate?

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

By MiaoTing Zhen

As of 2022, most Americans are vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, but this was not always the case. Even after the life-saving vaccine became available to the public, many were reluctant to become vaccinated. This was largely because they questioned the safety of the new and hastily produced vaccine. The hesitancy influenced almost 60 leading medical and health care organizations, including the Mayo Clinic, Veterans Administration, American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association to enforce a vaccine mandate for hospitals and nursing homes. Then, many questioned the ethics of the vaccine mandate.

However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission supports the mandate, and the Association of Bioethics Program Directors (ABPD), an organization representing 90+ bioethics centers in the US and Canada, concluded that the mandate is ethical. Those who say the mandate is unethical believe that their personal liberties and religious freedoms are being violated. But, ABPD believes that upholding the ideals of personal and religious freedom is not worth risking others.

In terms of personal freedom, everyone can do whatever they want. But, that does not mean there are no consequences for one’s actions. As a society, we have rules. So, if someone wants to murders another, they are free to do so. But, they will be severely punished. It can be said that severe punishments in these cases are ethical. The same idea goes for the vaccine. By not taking the vaccine, lives are being endangered. Therefore, the vaccine mandate is preventing the harm of others is ethical.

Moreover, although some cite their religious freedoms being infringed, many religious leaders of major faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have publicly encouraged members to get vaccinated. Pope Francis even sees vaccination as an “act of love” and a moral obligation.

In an attempt to undermine the mandate, some have claimed medical or religious exemptions. However, neither of these excuses are very valid. Many religions have already endorsed the vaccine, and the vaccine is extremely safe. The only reason someone should avoid the vaccine is if they have a known history of severe allergic reactions to comirnaty, an ingredient in the vaccine. Other allergies, such as an allergy to nuts do not count as a reason. There should be concern only if one is allergic to a part of the vaccine. Nonetheless, only two-five people per one million doses have actually had allergic reactions to the vaccine.

The vaccine is safe for those who are immunocompromised, pregnant, and undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatments, though they should talk to their doctors beforehand about the timing of the shot. The vaccine also does not contain any live virus, so one should not be afraid of infecting others after receiving the shot.

Some might still question the safety of the vaccine after it was produced in record-breaking time. But, they should rest assured that this efficiency was due to the extreme circumstances of COVID-19.

The virus took the world by storm, but it wasn't the first coronavirus the world had encountered. There are actually hundreds of coronaviruses, including the virus that caused the SARS epidemic in 2002 and MERS in 2012. Scientists had been studying coronaviruses for 50+ years and already had data on this type of virus’s structure, genome, and life cycle. This is why we were aware of its spike protein attachment so early on.

The vaccine production was also a worldwide effort. Essentially everyone was affected by COVID-19 and nations collaborated to learn more about the virus. For instance, the virus’s viral sequence was determined in January 2020, about ten days after the first reported pneumonia cases in China. Additionally, since COVID-19 was rapidly spreading and many were afraid of contracting the life-threatening virus, there were many volunteers for the vaccine trails. This allowed for large amounts of data to be collected quickly.

Not to mention, there was an incredible amount of government funding to quicken the vaccine’s production. Vaccine research usually costs $31-68 million, and the speed at which the research needed to be done would have made the operation even more expensive. But Operation Warp Speed, a federal effort to support COVID-19 vaccine development, provided companies resources and assumed any financial risk. All these components tied together allowed for the COVID-19 vaccine to be created within one year.

The only downside of this quick release is that further research for a more effective vaccine could be hindered. Since an approved, life-saving vaccine is already readily available, it would be unethical to give candidates in research trials a placebo and risk their lives. But, this is only a slight annoyance because the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine already had a 95% efficacy in clinical trials and a 94% effectiveness in the real world.

All in all, although some may question the ethics of the quick production of the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccine mandate, I hope this article has reassured them that the vaccine is completely safe and ethical.

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