COVID-19 and Anti-Vaxxers

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We are not accustomed to a world in which people routinely die of infection. That sort of thing happens in other times, other places; the seventeenth century, the Third World. It is not easy being somewhat suddenly thrust into such a world, and admitting that it is our world; that this is happening to us, here and now.

But it is. Huge swaths of the world’s population can’t leave their homes, for weeks or even months, until a viable vaccine to SARS-CoV-2 is developed, manufactured, and distributed. Without a vaccine, all of us are vulnerable to this very transmittable and quite fatal virus. Scientists the world over are collaborating to generate a safe and effective vaccine at breakneck speed. But once they do–might people refuse to take it?

Anti-vaxxers, as a matter of course, refuse to give their babies the vaccines that will protect them from other lethal pathogens. Statistics don’t sway them; appeals to altruism and public health, the need to maintain herd immunity to protect the vulnerable in our population, infants and elderly and those who are immunocompromised because of the chemotherapy they just had to undergo, don’t sway them. Anti-vaxxers just don’t want the government dictating that they must inject foreign substances into their babies’ bodies. Maybe they don’t believe that pathogens like measles and mumps and polio and flu can kill many otherwise healthy people within days and wreak havoc with society because, like most of us, they had never witnessed such a thing. Except that now they have.

Even so, even after the quarantines and the overflowing ICUs and the doctors begging us to please, please, please just stay home and limit our contacts because they don’t have the tools to help us if we end up in the hospital because we can’t breathe–even so, anti-vaxxers are more scared of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 than they are of the disease itself. Or they are more scared that the government will insist that they and their children get vaccinated than they are of the disease itself. But vaccines are not government trackers, and they do not cause autism. They are amazing tools that have allowed humanity to flourish by giving us a brief respite from the infectious diseases that have assailed us throughout our existence.

When that SARS-CoV-2 vaccine gets developed and tested and disseminated–whether it is in six months or eighteen–please get it, and please give your kids all of the other recommended vaccinations. For everyone’s health and safety. 

Diana Gitig
Dr. Diana Gitig has a Ph.D. in cell biology and genetics from Cornell University, and has been writing about issues in biology – from molecular biology to cancer to immunology to neuroscience to nutrition to agriculture - for the past fifteen years. She has three teenaged children.

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