As the first Americans are receiving a Covid 19 vaccine, a December 5 2020 Gallup poll reports that 63% of Americans say they are willing to take the vaccine. 37% are less willing, including some groups like non-white people and Americans age 45-64. But the percentage of Americans currently willing to get vaccinated may still be below where public health experts want it.
Now, there is a proposed bill in New York to make getting the vaccine mandatory to get sufficient immunity if not enough people are voluntarily getting them.
Why are some people unwilling to get the vaccine?
As I wrote in my last blog “Ethics and the Production of Covid 19 Vaccines”, many people are concerned about the use of aborted fetal cells in some vaccines. I also included two lists of vaccines and whether or not such fetal cells were involved in their production. One list is from the Charlotte Lozier Institute and one is from the Children of God for Life organization. (The Charlotte Lozier Institute does disagree with the Children of God for Life organization on the Moderna vaccine.)
Other potential concerns are about the safety, side effects and the effectiveness of the vaccines.
EFFECTIVENESS AND SAFETY
A December 3, 2020 MedPage investigative article “Want to Know More About mRNA Before Your COVID Jab?“ states that “While an mRNA vaccine has never been on the market anywhere in the world, mRNA vaccines have been tested in humans before, for at least four infectious diseases: rabies, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and Zika.”
The Covid 19 vaccines use a synthetic mRNA, which is genetic information used to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. When injected, the body produces a strong response to that protein to produce an immune response.
How long that response lasts is still unknown.
But, especially for certain groups of people, there are also concerns about safety.
According to the CDC (the U.S. Center for Disease Control) regarding immunocompromised patients such as those with HIV or who take immunosuppressive medications or therapies may take the vaccine but should be counseled about:
“– Unknown vaccine safety and efficacy profiles in immunocompromised persons
– Potential for reduced immune responses
– Need to continue to follow all current guidance to protect themselves against COVID-19″
Also according to the CDC, “There are no data on the safety of Covid 19 vaccines in pregnant women” but “Animal developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) studies are ongoing” and more studies are planned.
Regarding breastfeeding, the CDC states that “There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or milk production/excretion”
In a Nov. 23, 2020 CNBC article “Doctors say CDC should warn people the side effects from Covid vaccine shots won’t be ‘a walk in the park“, a group of doctors told the CDC to warn people that the Covid 19 vaccine shots now being rolled out may have “some rough side effects so they know what to expect and aren’t scared away from getting the second dose.”
And a December 9, 2020 article in the Wall Street Journal “Covid-19 Vaccines Pose Potential Side Effects, Doctors Say” reported that “U.K. authorities warn people with severe allergies against receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech shots, after two Britons experience allergic reactions.”
But a STAT news article a few days later on December 13, 2020, now reports that the CDC has changed its position from “Persons who have had a severe allergic reaction to any vaccine or injectable therapy (intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous) should not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at this time“(emphasis added) to that people who had “severe reactions to prior vaccines or injectable drugs can still get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19, but should discuss the risks with their doctors and be monitored for 30 minutes afterward”.
Another concern is that although states rely on the percentage of positive Covid 19 tests for lockdown and other orders, there are many kinds of tests and both false positive and false negative results have been reported.
No wonder many people are confused and anxious!
SHOULD COVID 19 VACCINES BE MANDATORY?
Now we are seeing Covid 19 vaccines being rapidly distributed and more Covid 19 vaccines are coming, including a Johnson and Johnson single dose Covid 19 vaccine that is in testing and the results may be known by January.
Currently, the health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities have first priority for a Covid 19 vaccine.
Although states have the authority to regulate public health and they have in the past mandated vaccines for diseases like smallpox and some mandatory vaccines are required by states before children can attend school, it seems unlikely that there will be a federal mandate for the Covid 19 vaccine.
It is more likely that only certain groups of people may be required to take the vaccine like healthcare workers, universities and some employers. Even then, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may help people who have a religious objection to a vaccine as well as anti-discrimination laws and exemptions for medical reasons. An employer would have to make a reasonable accommodation as long as it’s not too costly for the business.
It is also possible that airlines, stores, stadiums could also make vaccination a condition of doing business with a person.
The Covid 19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on everyone and we will not get back to “normal life” anytime soon, even with the Covid 19 vaccine.
But we still must make sure that any Covid 19 vaccines we take are ethical, effective and safe.