Student, Nurse’s Assistant Discusses Need for COVID Vaccines

Zack Freel

Working as a nurse’s assistant at the age of 20 years old, I have held my residents’ hands as they sit and pass away due to SARS-CoV-2. I’ve watched my residents who should have many healthy years ahead of them have their future reduced to mere months or weeks.

And they’re alone: no family, no friends, just me, their caregiver, to visit with them every day and attempt to make them feel as though the world has not forgotten them.

Healthcare workers are tasked with comforting individuals who are dying from a virus that has changed our world. However, in many public settings ignorance seems to have become bliss in the current coronavirus-ridden America and people are going on as if nothing has changed. The same attitude seems to be looming around many college campuses as classes are in full swing.

Due to the rapid infection rate, many things have changed to avoid spreading the virus. However, one thing has not yet changed at all: the fear of the unknown. This of course is the fear of the COVID-19 vaccines that are being developed and researched.

The vaccines mean going back to life as it was known before and no longer having to be kept away from loved ones: two things the public desires.

However, many people are reluctant to trust the vaccines. Their fears of the possible harsh side effects and long-term complications are stopping many from receiving the vaccine. Our nation is scared of what it does not fully understand. Will being better informed about the vaccine allow the public to trust the vaccine?

Research suggests the answer to this question is yes.

Informed confidence–– feeling confident in receiving a vaccine after knowing the facts about it––can be seen as a beneficial variable in past studies regarding influenza outbreaks and the vaccines created for the certain strains of influenza. In a 2014 study regarding the 2011–12 flu vaccine, it was found that although the public was informed on the severe symptoms of the influenza virus strain that was going around at the time, many were unwilling to get vaccinated.

Why is it that people did not want to get the vaccine and possibly spare the health of themselves and others?

Beyond the already known factors of economic status, political preference, and social standing within their community, the only thing in people’s way was a misconception about what the vaccine contained and how it worked on a molecular level (Suryadevara, Manika et al).

This situation was much like the one we find ourselves in today, except today’s pandemic is much worse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 12,469 deaths were estimated to be due to the H1N1 flu in the 2011–12 season. Meanwhile, according to the CDC as of March 4, 2021, more than 520,000 deaths have been due to COVID-19 in the United States since the pandemic began.

With the rapid production and little time for the normal route of approval, many people are uneasy about getting the coronavirus vaccine when it is readily available to the public. This uneasiness is understandable since sound scientific information may not always be accessible.

In absence of solid scientific information, people sometimes turn to social media or other sources of inaccurate information, like conspiracy theories, to explain what they do not yet understand.

Solid scientific information is key to dispelling these misconceptions and conspiracies.

As stated by Walsh et al (2020) in their research report on the Pfizer vaccine, the vaccine is simply synthetic mRNA that tells human cells how to code for the spike protein that is found on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. By coding for the spike protein, the mRNA in the vaccine simply teaches the immune system how to recognize and make antibodies to the viral spike protein. Once the immune system has been “trained” to recognize the spike protein, when a person is exposed to real spike protein on the virus itself, those antibodies can prevent infection.

Therefore, there is no way for the vaccine to cause the recipient to become infected with SARS-CoV-2. In fact, according to the CDC, no part of SARS-CoV-2 is put into the body from the vaccine.

Another misconception that people may have in the place of solid scientific information is that the mRNA within the vaccine will alter their DNA and mess with the genetics of their next of kin or alter their quality of life. To this, researchers of mRNA vaccines would argue that although the use of mRNA vaccines in humans is new, the study of these types of vaccines is not.

According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines have been studied for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus. If altering of DNA were a possible side effect of the vaccines, it is not likely that they would have been able to make it past the clinical trials responsible for weeding out side effects such as genetic alterations.

With this data being proven, why is there still a reluctance to trust in the vaccine and a willingness to trust in the conspiracies around the vaccines? It is this belief in and spread of misinformation that will cause people to avoid getting the SARS-CoV-2 vaccination although it has been proven to be 95% effective and has had little to no adverse events reported in its research (Walsh et al).

Further, when things are easier to read and understand, people are more likely to believe it as fact, according to Rolf Reber in his article “The Effects of Perceptual Fluency on Judgments of Truth.”

As a nation we must not let our misconceptions cloud our solid reasoning and better judgement.

With the death tolls rising every single day, it is crucial that we use our reason and desire for knowledge to think like scientists. Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and BioTech have been around for years creating and checking the safety of medicines that have helped to save lives. It is pertinent that we familiarize ourselves with their works and the works of others to better understand our current pandemic.

Free sources of peer-reviewed information such as Google Scholar exist. With the determination to go out and learn as much as possible about the vaccines and the science within them, a person will be able to come to terms with the fact that the mRNA vaccines have been tried and tested to the point where humans can trust them.

We cannot afford for the coronavirus vaccine to run its course the way the 2011–12 influenza vaccine did. It is time to stop the ignorance and think like a scientist.