The past several months have been a very rough journey for so many of us, as we are still in the midst of a deadly viral pandemic that has claimed close to 300,000 lives just here in the United States and thousands more globally. We have seen our frontline workers pushed to their limits. What makes this pandemic even more deadly is the attitude of so many despite the very visible impact of this disease. An anti-vaxxer movement has now morphed into an anti-science and anti-mask movement, and given birth to disturbing conspiracy theories, which should defy common sense but are instead amplified by so many thanks to social media.
I was not around when earlier vaccines such as polio and smallpox were developed and played a critical part in combatting deadly and debilitating diseases. Still, I can only imagine the excitement coupled with skepticism and fear that must have taken place at that time. When I first saw the news chyron blasting the news of the recently developed vaccines for COVID-19 being approved for emergency use authorization and then watching vaccines being loaded onto planes, ready for distribution, I clapped with joy until my own skepticism sunk in. My fear is not the vaccine or the side effects, which recently released public data indicates is minimal, but the fear that a vaccine program is only effective if people get vaccinated.
So let’s talk about vaccinations and access along with the will to get vaccinated. The CDC recommended that health care workers and nursing home residents be the first to get the vaccine as doses will be limited initially. So why are we now hearing that politicians are going to have access as well. How about politicians who downplayed the virus and spread conspiracy theories about the virus itself, which led to some devastating consequences. Should they be allowed the cut the line and get a vaccine for a disease they disregarded as a “hoax”? Is this another case of the haves and have nots and access to health care?
We have an access problem with this new vaccine and fear and lack of will to vaccinate. As a brand new vaccine, I can understand why there is so much reluctance, even in health care workers to get a vaccine, where side effects and efficacy is still to be seen, despite promising data from clinical trials. I also attribute this fear to the fear of the unknown and politicization of our leaders’ health care.
As health care workers, it is our duty to study the data that already exists, and educate our communities and loved ones about the benefits of vaccinations, and bust myths that float out there. My very favorite myth is that vaccines will microchip us all. While it sounds comical, it is one I have heard even from those who have always gotten vaccines. Let’s do our part and fight to combat this deadly pandemic and misinformation, which itself is a killer.
Rabia Jalal is a physician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com