News of major drugmakers’ progress on potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is relieving, but, as has been the norm since the onset of this pandemic, science deniers on the fringes of social media are already attempting to undermine public health initiatives.
Pfizer, announcing a vaccine that is 95% effective in ongoing studies, asked for emergency approval Friday from the FDA to begin distributing doses. Moderna, a company with its own vaccine showing similar effectiveness, is close behind.
Pharmaceutical companies Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson are currently conducting trials for their own vaccines.
True, the testing phase for these vaccines has been rushed because of the urgency of the need for them, but regulatory agencies in the U.S. and the world appear to be working diligently to ensure their safety.
The trials for these vaccines involved testing with thousands of participants, and safety benchmarks required by the FDA for emergency authorization were met.
After they are distributed, multiple agencies will continue to monitor the health of recipients, looking for any unintended side effects.
Already, the machinery of misinformation has spun up, spreading falsehoods and ludicrous conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines and casting doubt on their safety.
Thousands of anti-vaccine posts have flooded social media, purporting to expose insidious motives that do not even attempt to describe reality. Some warn that the vaccines will change our DNA, are poison or will install microchips in our brains. One, running completely counter to the laws of nature, claims that a coronavirus vaccine could turn people into chimpanzees.
These fantasies would be laughable were they not sure to be successful in dissuading thousands from receiving a vaccine during a health crisis that has killed more than 250,000 Americans to date.
Epidemiologists worry that enough people refusing the vaccine could keep communities from reaching herd immunity and prolong the deadly effects of the virus.
We’ve already seen transmission and death rates exacerbated by anti-mask sentiments and those turning recommended safety precautions into a political issue, rather than a public health issue.
Viruses don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican. Making mitigation efforts into partisan issues will only hurt the community’s overall health.
When these vaccines are available, research them using reputable sources, avoid unlikely conspiracy theories, and make a decision to preserve your and your neighbors’ health.