Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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In Our View: To fight virus, Americans must get vaccine

The Columbian
Published:

In order to slow the spread of coronavirus, Americans need to roll up their sleeves — and not just figuratively.

Diligence regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing remains essential for stemming the virus. Now, we can add receiving a vaccination as soon as possible to the list of disease-fighting actions.

Frontline health care workers have started receiving inoculations against COVID-19, following fast-track approval by the Food and Drug Administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. In a statement last week, FDA officials said: “Today’s action follows an open and transparent review process that included input from independent scientific and public health experts and a thorough evaluation by the agency’s career scientists.”

Assuring the public of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy will be important to lowering infection rates and allowing schools and businesses to fully reopen. A vaccine is effective only if people receive it, and that is cause for concern as Pfizer rolls out the first wave of production.

The pandemic has combined with a growing anti-vaccine movement in the United States to sow distrust and misinformation. “There’s so much we don’t know, so much uncertainty, and uncertainty makes us all so prone to misinformation to try to quell that feeling,” the University of Washington’s Kolina Koltai told NPR. Koltai, of the university’s Center for an Informed Public, studies the anti-vaxx movement and called coronavirus “the perfect storm” for misinformation.

Indeed, questions should be asked before agreeing to receive a coronavirus vaccine — which is delivered through one initial shot and a follow-up booster shot. But answers should come from your doctor, reliable media outlets and health care organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control. They should not come from something your Aunt Mabel in Minnesota posts on Facebook or something a stranger posts on Instagram.

Numerous public opinion polls have shown that between one-third and one-half of Americans will decline to be vaccinated, a disturbing finding that will hamper this nation’s ability to tamp down the disease.

In Clark County, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center officials began administering the vaccine on Wednesday. Dr. Lawrence Neville, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said: “This comes in the midst of having our caregivers and our frontline workers really feeling a deep sense of obligation, a moral obligation to the community and a deep sense of pride in what they do. But also they are getting a little tired. It’s hard work. It’s hard emotional work. It’s hard spiritual work. It’s hard seeing patients come in so sick.”

By that point, the county had seen more than 11,000 confirmed COVID cases, and 131 deaths had been attributed to the disease.

Health care workers, first responders and people in vulnerable populations, such as assisted living residents, will be first in line to receive vaccinations. Nationally, it is expected to take until mid-2021 before there are enough vaccines for everybody who wants one.

All of that represents a major victory for President Trump’s Warp Speed program, considering that vaccine development typically takes years. At the same time, the administration reportedly declined offers from Pfizer to purchase enough vaccines to cover a majority of Americans, leading to concerns about an eventual shortage.

That will be moot, however, if a large number of Americans refuse to be vaccinated. In order to finally slow coronavirus, we all need to roll up our sleeves.

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