“I don’t think we should get vaccinated, at least not yet. My friend told me there are many bad side effects from the vaccine,” my mom said to me.
Her reservations were what many people may have thought when the first vaccines against COVID-19 became available. Health care workers and most government officials strongly recommended that everyone get the vaccine, so we could put a stop to the pandemic. However, people also heard rumors and dubious information from friends, family, neighbors and the internet, leaving many skeptical.
Some of the comments I heard included the following:
“The government is tracking us with the vaccine.”
“The vaccine will alter my DNA.”
“You will get COVID even if you take the vaccine, so what’s the point?”
“How do you know if it’s safe? It became available in such a short amount of time.”
According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker, as of this writing the United States has recorded 40.5 million total confirmed COVID cases and 649,299 deaths in the last 30 days. With the school year starting again and millions of students returning to on-campus classes, it is essential for everyone to get vaccinated and not fall prey to false information.
What exactly does the COVID-19 vaccine do to our body?
COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA (Messenger Ribonucleic Acid) to deliver immunity. They teach our body to make antibodies that will fight the virus. When our cells process mRNA, a part of the cell called the ribosome translates and follows the mRNA instructions to build the encoded protein. After taking the vaccine, our bodies are able to recognize COVID-19 and protect us by making us less likely to contract the virus.
According to the CDC, only 53.3% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, yet the vaccine is completely free for anyone living in the United States. Anyone 12 years and older can simply walk in a pharmacy or clinic near them and get vaccinated. There is no need for appointments or payments; some states even administer cash rewards to the vaccinated. A program called “You Call the Shot, California” presented a tempting incentive: Anyone living in California who got their first vaccination between May 27-July 18 was eligible to receive a $50 gift card. When I got my first vaccine with my mom and dad, we happened to be in line during this time period, so we each received a $50 gift card. Like California, many states have run similar programs to encourage their residents to get vaccinated. Yet, even when communities are giving money to people simply for getting vaccinated, there are still people who refuse.
Why does this happen? Part of the reason might stem from the sources where we get our information. We have to make sure that what we are hearing, reading and saying about the COVID-19 vaccine is reliable and credible. It’s easy to read a myth or hear a rumor about the vaccine and believe it. Since anyone can post material on social media, it is important to check what we read before believing it, and worse, spreading it. The best way to gather information about the COVID-19 vaccine is to ask a trusted health care professional. According to the CDC, other reliable and credible online sources to learn about the COVID-19 vaccine are the websites for the Medical Library Association, the Immunization Action Coalition and the World Health Organization.
Since vaccines of all types became available to people, there have always been people who refused to get them. Choosing to not get vaccinated even when you are able to is a selfish decision because getting vaccinated could help end this ongoing pandemic. We cannot turn back time, so life will never return to how it was before the pandemic started. However, we can heal and work toward a new normal in life by getting vaccinated. Americans are very privileged to have access to the vaccine while other countries are desperate to get enough. COVID-19 has affected everyone’s life in the past year. We have to stop letting politics and excuses prevent us from getting vaccinated. We must come together and put an end to this deadly pandemic.
Eileen Liu is a ninth grader at Menlo-Atherton High School. In her free time, she enjoys researching and writing about current issues happening in the world. She lives in Menlo Park.