The start of the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced billions of people’s lives. Many healthcare organizations throughout the globe started cooperating, trying to find a solution to a new crisis. Countries prompted lockdowns, people tried to isolate themselves, and hospitals opened new COVID departments due to an overload of patients, but this was not enough to stop the spread of the virus. Such pandemic is not the first pandemic in human history. Humans have already faced several serious diseases such as Spanish flu, Bubonic plague, HIV/AIDS. Years of epidemiologic researches led scientists to understand that preventing the disease is much better, safer, and cheaper than treating it. Vaccines have appeared relatively recently. In the 18th century, an English physician and scientist, Edward Jenner, worked on the concept of vaccine and developed the first vaccine ever – the smallpox vaccine.
That event has shaped the future of medicine. Many more vaccines have been created since that time, and they helped contain many highly infectious diseases and save billions of lives. In the era of the Internet and mass media, it is easy to access any information and spread it globally. The information may not always be checked, accurate or correct at all. Nowadays, in the era of COVID-19, it is vital to share truthful and proven data regarding the disease and the means to prevent it and stop the pandemic.
Basic Information about Vaccines
The vaccine is essentially a universal means to prevent infectious diseases. It provides immunity to a particular disease, a process called immunization. Immunization can also happen as a result of recovering from some illnesses, although sometimes it is not as effective as vaccination. Immunization is generally divided into active and passive — passive means providing one’s organism with already preformed means of protection – antibodies. The onset of protection is rapid, although it lasts for a short time. A vaccine is a form of active immunization, which means we induce an immunologic response in our body and make it produce its own antibodies.
The onset is slower, but such immunity lasts much longer, sometimes even for a lifetime. There are live attenuated and inactivated vaccines. Live attenuated vaccine is a weakened pathogen, which can induce an immune response but cannot cause disease itself. Inactivated vaccines are created from the whole pathogen or some part of it, then injected into the organism. All vaccines trigger the immune system to develop protective antibodies and immune cells that, in the future, will make the organism resistant to a particular infection (Riedel et al. 227). Sometimes it is required to get more than one vaccine dose. Such revaccinations are spread in time, and they help the body create more long-term defense against pathogens. Revaccinations are as safe as the first vaccination.
The Current State of Vaccines
Vaccination has recently become one of the most popular topics in the world media due to COVID-19. Nowadays, people pay more attention to different pharmacological companies and the products they develop. Pharmacologic companies have researched the virus extensively, trying to find a way to create an effective vaccine, and they succeeded in doing so. WHO has already approved several vaccines, and many more are being assessed as potential candidates. All the vaccines must complete a set of clinical trials where such features as safety, efficacy, dosage, and side effects are tested. During the clinical trials, scientists assess the characteristics above of a vaccine or a drug and, based on the statistical analysis, decide if it can be used globally or not. The trials and the juridical procedures usually take a lot of time, but fortunately, vaccines against COVID-19 were approved relatively quickly and are now available.
Vaccines before COVID
COVID is not the first deadly virus that humanity faces, and COVID vaccines are not the first to be used globally. Vaccines helped fight poliomyelitis before, and they saved millions of lives. The same happened with flu, measles, rubella, and many more infectious diseases throughout human history. Nowadays, scientists developed an immunization schedule, and children begin getting their first vaccines as early as within hours after birth (Bertram 1179). All these vaccines have been previously tested for safety, efficacy, and many other parameters. They all followed more or less the same standardized phases for approval that COVID vaccines followed in the past few years. Modern medicine is about statistics and proof. Every intervention that WHO or any other respectful medical organization recommends is evidence-based.
Although COVID vaccines had to be developed in a short time, they were all checked multiple times and showed effectiveness in fighting coronavirus infection. Even after being released on the market, these vaccines are still being observed for possible long-term adverse effects. However, it does not necessarily mean that there will be any. There is a need to establish mutual trust between people and medical institutions worldwide to stop the spread of COVID-19 and end the pandemic.
The first and most apparent benefit of vaccination is self-protection. According to the data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine works by “reducing the risk of COVID-19, including severe illness by 90% or more, among people who are fully vaccinated.” (Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine). Such a vast reduction of risk shows how effective this vaccine is. Naturally, there are several other approved vaccines whose efficacy differs from this one, although they are all effective enough to be approved by WHO. There is a common thing between all these vaccines – they all boost human immunity and help the organism fight coronavirus effectively.
Vaccination is essential for older people, people with chronic diseases, and pregnant women since they are more susceptible to develop severe forms of COVID-19 disease. A study conducted by Villar et al. shows that “COVID-19 in pregnancy was associated with consistent and substantial increases in severe maternal morbidity and mortality and neonatal complications “(817). Women who wish to become pregnant should understand that pregnancy itself is a complicated and stressful process for one’s organism. There is no need to risk the lives of a future mother and child since most adverse outcomes can be prevented with a vaccine. The situation is similar with increasing age and the presence of chronic medical conditions.
Older adults and those with chronic disease are more likely to develop severe forms of COVID and die from it (COVID-19 and Your Health). It is unnecessary to put one’s organism under more pressure and hope that an already weakened immune system will effectively fight coronavirus infection. Vaccines can actually become a decisive factor in life-and-death questions for such patients.
People should also understand that being young does not entirely exclude the possibility of developing severe coronavirus infection and death from it. Indeed, such things happen rarely, but they do happen, and there is no need to put one’s life in danger. Vaccines alleviate the course of the disease, and even if one happens to get ill with the COVID-19, the symptoms will be milder compared to the unvaccinated person.
Protect Friends and Relatives
Vaccine not only helps one’s body cope with the virus, but it also decreases the rates of its spreading to other people. Vaccination helps protect one’s friends and relatives. It is essential for the older adults, for whom coronavirus possesses much more danger. Being vaccinated means caring for the older adults around. If many people in a population get vaccinated, then it is possible to develop so-called herd immunity. Herd immunity is a concept which means that if enough people in the population become immune, spreading the disease to unvaccinated people reduces substantially. The most effective way to achieve herd immunity is to vaccinate as many people as possible. Even people who have recovered from COVID are advised to get vaccinated since, in the case of COVID, previous illness does not guarantee such protection as the vaccine does. The importance of herd immunity for fighting COVID has already been shown.
Israel has led a massive vaccination company, and they managed to achieve the state of herd immunity. The results of the study show that “From March 2021, onwards, Israel reported a rapid decline in COVID-19 cases across all age groups, despite the easing of lockdown restrictions and reopening of education and commerce” (Leshem and Wilder-Smith 1784). Many more countries around the world that vaccinated enough of their population had significantly decreased the number of new cases and their severity.
A lot has been said about the efficacy of vaccines, but what troubles many people is a question of safety. Naturally, scientists conducted numerous researches regarding the safety of vaccines in general and against COVID specifically. Social media publications influenced the general population to a great extent. Many mass media nowadays concentrate only on a number of views or reposts of their publications instead of checking the information they spread. This may lead to a severe misunderstanding regarding different topics, including vaccination.
Vaccines do have adverse effects, but their severity and frequency are usually overvalued. This has happened to the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Several fatal cases due to possible adverse effects of vaccine (increased blood clotting) started appearing in the media. At that time, nobody knew if the vaccine had any causal relationship with these accidents and how frequent are these events. The goal of the press was not to educate citizens but to get as much attention to their posts and articles regarding it. All the attention was immediately drawn to this adverse effect, which arose many doubts in people’s minds, and many people started denying vaccination. Recent research showed that such an effect is extremely rare. The frequency of this adverse effect and death correspondingly “…equates to around one case per 250 000 people vaccinated—0.0004%—and one death in a million.” (Mahase 1).
People also tend to worry about some possible delayed adverse effects of vaccines. Almost nobody can exactly name any particular effect, but this is what makes people afraid of vaccines. The point is, there is COVID-19 pandemic right now, and thousands of people are dying these days. The need to take any action and fight the virus currently is apparent. Even if some vaccines show adverse effects later (which is unlikely), all the benefits of the vaccines are obvious, and they significantly outweigh any possible adverse effects. Still, it is extremely hard to eradicate the doubts that have already appeared in people’s minds due to distorted presentations from mass media. It would be better if media concentrated on the effectiveness of vaccines rather than on possible and rare adverse effects.
Moreover, it is essential to check the information a person shares on social networks. It may impact people’s opinions regarding vaccines and the situation around COVID in general. Sharing personal experiences about painless and safe vaccination may benefit the audience and facilitate the vaccination in society. At the same time, false data can indirectly discourage people from vaccination and harm.
Vaccination is a choice that everyone is free to make. The current development of medical science allows us to make decisions based on statistical pieces of evidence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to have a proper understanding of disease and the ways to stop the pandemic. Vaccines have multiple times shown statistically significant results in alleviating the spread and severity of infectious diseases. All approved vaccines have proven safe and effective against the COVID-19 infection, and more new vaccines are being developed. Medical scientists provide humanity with the means to save lives, and it is crucial to use them and help stop the pandemic. Supporting vaccination shows responsibility and care for oneself and the people around.
“COVID-19 and Your Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Web.
Katzung, Bertram. Basic and Clinical Pharmacology 14th Edition. 14th ed., McGraw-Hill Education / Medical, 2017.
Leshem, Eyal, and Annelies Wilder-Smith. “COVID-19 Vaccine Impact in Israel and a Way out of the Pandemic.” The Lancet, vol. 397, no. 10287, 2021, pp. 1783–85. Web.
Mahase, Elisabeth. “AstraZeneca vaccine: Blood clots are “extremely rare” and benefits outweigh risks, regulators conclude.” BMJ (Clinical research ed.) vol. 373 n.931. 2021. Web.
“Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Overview and Safety.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Web.
Riedel, Stefan, et al. Jawetz Melnick & Adelbergs Medical Microbiology. 28th ed., McGraw-Hill Education / Medical, 2019.
Villar, José, et al. “Maternal and Neonatal Morbidity and Mortality Among Pregnant Women With and Without COVID-19 Infection.” JAMA Pediatrics, vol.175, no.8, 2021, pp. 817–826. Web.