For You, For Me, FOR ALL
The COVID-19 Vaccine
I just finished receiving my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Let me fill you in on a little secret: I absolutely hate needles. As in hate needles to the point of near tears, sweaty palms, and obnoxious shaking. But here I am, dealing with my fears to get a vaccine that may or may not make a difference for my residents. I am a health care worker and that is what we do. These residents, they are my people, my family, and I would do anything to protect them. So, this morning I landed in a seat to do something I am absolutely terrified of, but not for the same reasons as most other people.
An Oppurtunity to Help
That all being said, my boss suggested the other day that I write my January blog on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine. I will admit, I definitely sighed at the thought of writing on this. To be completely honest, I hadn’t even done any research on the vaccine before signing up to take it. That might sound crazy, but I couldn’t have jumped in line fast enough for the vaccine that I knew essentially nothing about. I simply saw this as an opportunity to help protect my residents, to be able to see my Grandma regularly, and to stop hearing my seven-year-old proclaim that COVID is ruining her life. I literally had not even picked up one piece of paper regarding this vaccine. Instead, I did what I always do and trusted that the FDA had done enough research to ensure our safety before giving it the green light.
Show Me The Numbers
In my view, the recommendation to get this vaccine is no different than making the appointment for my son to get his Kindergarten shots in a few weeks. I love my kids, more than I love myself, and I trust the FDA and my doctor’s recommendation on getting their vaccines, so why on Earth would I not follow that same guidance for myself? By the way, I did a little research on that while I was working on this piece and I discovered that 83.2% of Americans receive their recommended DTaP shot, 92.7% Polio, 91.5% MMR, 91% Chicken Pox, and 82.4% PCV. Those are some pretty high compliance numbers according to data from the CDC website collected in 2017. Given those numbers, I am going to suspect that I am not the only one who trusts the FDA’s guidance.
I have always been vaccinated. I am fully up to date on all vaccines, as is my husband and both of our children. We trust doctors and scientists when they recommend these vaccines. They are the experts on this topic and they have plenty of studies, trials, and research to support their decisions. Why is the COVID vaccine being interpreted so differently? Maybe because the average time it takes to develop the typical vaccine is between 10-15 years. Prior to the COVID vaccine, the fastest vaccine to be developed was the mumps vaccine, and it took 4 years.
Past Issues in Vaccine Development
What has been proven to slow most vaccine development in the past is the lack of volunteers for the clinical trial, lack of financial means to fund the research, compilation of research about the virus, and the fact that most vaccines include a portion of a live virus.
Lack of Clinical Trial Volunteers
I want to break each of these issues down a little further. The first issue I mentioned was lack of volunteers. When the researchers opened clinical trials for the COVID vaccine, they had approximately 138,600 Americans volunteer to participate in less than two weeks, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That number was more than enough participants for researchers to complete the clinical trials. In the past, gathering enough volunteers took much longer.
Lack of Funding
Financial means have often been listed as a barrier in past vaccine development. According to the Department of Health and Human Services website, Congress has directed almost $10 billion to the vaccine effort through supplemental funding, including the CARES Act. They have also appropriated other flexible funding. In addition, there has been a substantial amount of money from private donors. These funds have been used to bring more people into the clinical trial process, use better technology than was available in past vaccination development projects, and to fund dedicated labs and teams to focus specifically on the process.
Lack of Time
The third barrier was the research time that is typically invested into studying the virus. As we were all told in the beginning of this pandemic, the term coronavirus has been surrounding us for many years. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there are hundreds of forms of the coronavirus. Research and information on the coronavirus have actually already been studied and documented for years. Granted, the research was not on the exact strand that is currently affecting us, but the information that had already been gathered offered a much better starting point than was available when developing past vaccines.
Global vs. National Problem
In my opinion, I think it has also made a big difference that this is a global pandemic and not just an epidemic at the national level. From the research that I have done, many countries’ scientists have shared information to help research and create these vaccines. Typically, I would be more skeptical of this, but in this case, taking a look at the global economic outlook, I can understand why this is a top priority for everyone.
Convential Vaccines vs. COVID-19 Vaccine
Barrier number four was that most conventional vaccines use a live or weakened form of the original infection, or inject fragments of it into the body. These vaccines are much slower to develop and to my simple understanding are a lot more complicated due to increased risks and side effects. The COVID-19 vaccination that has been authorized in the US does not contain any actual live forms of the coronavirus.
We Have to Start Somewhere
I think the conclusion I gleaned while researching this vaccine is that everything new has to start somewhere. Maybe vaccine development is something, that as technology and resources have increased over time, has just gotten better. I would like to think that as our society advances, things naturally improve, processes become faster, products more easily duplicated, and developments happen with fewer issues. Look at other inventions, why don’t we question how their development process has become much faster and more streamlined? Instead, we view it as a stride in society. What used to take years to develop now takes minutes due to increased finances, resources, and larger teams working towards the same goal. Doesn’t that seem oddly similar to what we are witnessing happen with the COVID vaccine? I would surely hope that we would be getting better and faster at the creation of vaccines as we are with everything else.
According to the CDC, over 370,000 deaths have occurred in the United States from COVID-19. I am going to move forward with the opinion that I am lucky to not be included in that number. I am moving forward with the attitude that this is my chance to be part of something that can change the world. Maybe 50 years from now, the COVID vaccine will be part of everyone’s normal vaccination regimen and they will laugh at how debated this was. The truth is, I don’t know. None of us really do. But for now, I am glad that I sat in that chair today, sweaty palms and all, and rolled up my sleeve for my shot to help end this.
CDC Immunizations Facts: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/immunize.htm
CDC COVID Tracker: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_casesper100klast7days
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/
Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.hhs.gov/
Recieving the COVID-19 Vaccine
I mentioned in my writing, I hate needles, but this one was more than worth the pain and anticipation.