COVID-19 vaccine: To take or not to take?

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COVID-19 vaccine: To take or not to take?

Oneil
Madden

Thursday, December 17, 2020

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The advent of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus has been met with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is like light at the end of the tunnel. After more than a year since the first case was recorded in Wuhan, China, which then spread like wildfire across the world, hope is now being reignited, as this new vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech) is expected to help restore a sense of normality to our disrupted lives.

Multiple stakeholders, including those in the health care, travel and tourism, sports and entertainment, and education sectors are especially elated about this new development. On the other hand, however, there is growing scepticism among a large portion of both the local and international populations, of whether this vaccine is safe for citizens; hence, the big question: Should I take it or not?

The creation of vaccines is not a new phenomenon. We have been creating and taking them for several years, with little or no harm. Why, then, are people now afraid to take this shot?

Agreeably, when COVID-19 numbers started to spiral out of control, there was a great cloud of fear hanging over our lives. People were (still are) concerned about contracting the virus, and even dying. We have seen and heard of millions of cases, and we know that contracting the virus can be fatal. In fact, we were the same people hoping that a vaccine would be created to alleviate the situation. Consequently, medical scientists and laboratories had no choice but to put all hands on deck to see how best they could respond to this world crisis.

There have been concerns, however, that the creation of a vaccine, while being done in the interest of controlling the health crisis, seems to be an activity for commercial purpose and for status and power. It is as though there is this sort of competition between countries, universities, and laboratories to see who can get their product on the market first. And, quite frankly, there is also this subtle, or some could say blatant competition between certain countries in this vaccine race. After all, it would be a delight for any president or prime minister to declare that his/her country has found the cure. Besides, there would be even greater resistance to take the vaccine if it were some other country that produced one before the US.

Irrefutably, the time frame in creating the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was quite short, compared to other vaccines that have been developed over the years. But this is 2020!

It is puzzling, to some extent, how many of us embrace advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, gadgets, etc, but raise our eyebrows at the evolutions in medical technology. We live in an era with greater knowledge, experience, and access to resources.

World leaders are cognisant of the scruples being expressed by their citizens concerning the vaccine; thus, they have been indicating that they will be taking to take it. Indubitably, the population needs to be reassured that their leaders are with them along this journey. At the same time, however, it is often repeated that politicians cannot be trusted. How sure are we that they would be taking the 'right' one, even if they did it on live TV?

Notwithstanding, the responsibility is not limited to these individuals. Health care workers have an equal or even greater role to play in calming our fears. It is, thus, important the kind of sentiment that these individuals transmit through the media. We understand that many people, including some of these health practitioners, have legitimate concerns and feel pressured to take the vaccine. However, if they are sending a negative message, how do they expect teachers and other key groups to react?

With lots of Jamaicans being religious and superstitious, church leaders and pastors will equally have to be among the first takers of the vaccine when it arrives to our shores early next year. Understandably, a lot of denominations have taught that this vaccine is a part of end-time prophecies, especially the “mark of the beast”, referenced in Revelation 13 of the Christian Bible.

It is rather ironic how Christians ascribe certain events to the mark of the beast but willingly engage in others; for example, there was similar scepticism regarding the national identification system (NIDS). However, these same people engage in the biometric process when applying for a visa to go to foreign countries. In fact, amid the current COVID-19 situation in the US, the US embassy in Kingston is still seeing numerous visa applicants.

There are many things that we consume but we do not know or understand the ingredients in the products. Do we stop eating or drinking? There are many medications that we take, but we do not know when and how they were developed. The vaccine that is currently being distributed has gone through different stages of clinical trials and is said to be effective. If we want to return to normality — however that may look — we should get a shot (the vaccine, of course!). Or, do we prefer to wait for another three to four years?

 

Oneil Madden is a PhD candidate in didactics and linguistics at the Université Clermont Auvergne, France. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or oneil.madden@uca.fr.


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