Vaccine equality

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year, you probably have heard about COVID-19, and more recently, the COVID-19 vaccine. If you tune in to any news station, you are likely overwhelmed with vaccine news — the miraculous speed at which it was produced, the issues with distributions, and concerns about possible side effects. 

It’s been almost a year since COVID-19 hit, and I am sure I can speak for all of us: we are tired of wearing masks and dream of the day we have the freedom to eat lunch in Malone cafeteria with more than four to a table and walk up the staircase in any direction we choose. Right now, our best chance to one day achieve this dream is to get the COVID vaccine when available to us and to create herd immunity. In light of the recent disheartening milestone of over 500,000 Americans dying from COVID-19, vaccination remains the single most important thing for getting us back to pre-pandemic life.  

Yet, while achieving herd immunity through vaccines is imperative to normalcy, many are skeptical about taking the vaccine even once it is available to them. According to USAFacts released in January, “45 percent of adults aren’t certain they will get fully vaccinated.” 

Additionally, a New York Times poll shows that only 32 percent of Black Americans and only 52 percent of Hispanics are willing to take the vaccine. This is worrisome considering studies have shown that Black and Latino Americans are being hit five times harder by COVID-19 than white Americans. However, while African Americans are the most likely to benefit from this vaccine, they have been shown to have the most distrust for the vaccine according to polls done by the Pew Research center. 

Some of this mistrust is due to current and past harms that happened to minority groups. This distrust will take time to fix. Some of this distrust in the safety and validity of vaccines stems from past unethical experiments performed on minority groups. 

One practice at the start of the last century, for example, was to sterilize minority women without their consent and do syphilis testing on unknowing patients, resulting in deeply rooted distrust toward doctors and the healthcare system within minority communities. The refusal to get vaccines is a similarly complex issue. Even in recent times, many people refuse to get the flu shot, a vaccine that has been researched and has an excellent track record of safety for decades. Recent racial and political turmoil happening in our country right now has only added to distrust in American leadership and has caused deep divisions between communities and even within families. 

As we begin 2021, almost a full year since the COVID-19 crisis was declared a pandemic, we as students, teachers, and members of our community must work to educate ourselves and others on the vaccine. While we cannot forget the past, we must do our part, so the future is not like the past. 

With every new vaccine, there will be mistrust and concerns over the drug, whether it is safe enough to implement a distribution plan. However, I believe that self education is the key to changing this mentality. If we begin by educating ourselves about vaccines, we will be able to change the fixed mindset of those around us.

 If a stranger walked up and told me to do something I would probably say no. However, if a loved one like my mother or my sister explained why I should do something, I would most likely listen and take action. We can be the change that helps educate others. We can be the factor that changes our 80-year-old grandma’s ideas about that vaccine and helps save her life because she finally decided to get it. Further, we can encourage our community leaders or people with great influence to do the same. If they begin to educate themselves about the vaccine, they have the power to educate and help change many people’s mindsets. 

For example, Vice President Kamala Harris recently posted a video of herself getting the vaccine. Imagine if someone similarly influential to our generation, like LeBron or other pop culture icons, posted a video of getting the vaccine; they could easily change the mindset of thousands of people. Until then, progress must start with ourselves; we must educate ourselves. Once we have done that, we can begin to educate our family and friends, sparking a massive ripple effect.

Last year laid bare the frank disparities of our nation racially and socioeconomically. There is no quick solution to these complex issues, but we can be a small part of the solution of creating vaccination equality within our own families, our own communities, and the 79 different zip codes that Westminster students call home.


COVID vaccines resources:

Search for vaccination sites in your community:

Kimberly Manning MD’s excellent summary of how the mRNA COVID vaccines work:

From the CDC:

Coronavirus Disease 2019

From the AAP:

2019 Novel Coronavirus

From Fulton County:

From Emory: