Illustration by Nora Talbott
Statistically, the majority of Americans know someone who contracted the COVID-19 virus. Governor Hogan announced before Thanksgiving that Maryland is a coronavirus red zone, as the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths continue to rise. It has been clear that in many places around the world, including America, the only way to achieve herd immunity and provide the population a greater degree of safety from outbreaks, is by getting 70% of the population vaccinated.
Vaccinating 70% of the population is literally the only way for the pandemic to be contained. Even in Montgomery County, COVID-19 cases and deaths have been rising because mask mandates and stay-at-home orders were lifted (too early) in April. So the only way to return to having big gatherings like football games, beach vacations and concerts is to have everyone vaccinated.
Around 63% of Americans have expressed safety concerns over the vaccine, with 40% of poll takers saying they are worried because of how fast it was developed, according to a Harris Poll. However, there are around a dozen vaccines that are either approved or in the final stages of approval. This should be reassuring for those with safety concerns.
The fact that there is worry by people is understandable, this virus is new to all of us and the vaccine research has been rushed to some extent. After all, the government program that created the vaccines was “Operation Warp-Speed.” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — we have to put our trust behind scientists.
American society is unique because of its individualism, but the pandemic highlighted a negative aspect of that way of life. Too many people have put their need for individual freedom above the common good. Whether it is the protests opposing lockdowns or individuals saying that mask mandates violate their personal freedom, we need to reassess the way we look at our personal freedom.
If your personal freedom is costing lives, then it isn’t personal freedom. And that’s how we should look at the vaccines. If we’re all vaccinated that means fewer lives lost and the closer we are to normalcy.
Remember — the reason we need 70% of the population to be vaccinated is because there is a significant number of people who medically cannot get the vaccine; people with allergies,
people who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children.
Over the last month, countries around the world have begun vaccinating the first eligible group, healthcare workers. The average American is going to be able to take the vaccine in late spring. By then, many will have already taken it, such as healthcare personnel, essential workers, nursing home residents, adults with high-risk medical conditions and those older than 65, meaning if there is any possible side effect that didn’t appear in the test runs, it would have definitely been discovered by then. So, again, there should not be any anxiety about that.
While the federal government cannot easily mandate vaccines, states and cities can and should, especially the biggest hotspots like Los Angeles, Miami and Houston.
Can the vaccine be made compulsory for school? Yes. Schools can mandate students, faculty and staff to be immunized for certain diseases before coming on campus. MCPS must mandate the vaccine to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.