Don’t rush in, the COVID-19 vaccine could create a new health crisis


Graphic by Evelyn Shue

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the first emergency authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals who are 16 years of age or older.

Maria Alba, Opinions Writer

After more than two million people around the world have died from COVID-19, everyone is desperate to get in line for the vaccine. As the U.S. and other countries begin the process of mass immunizations, citizens hope for a return to normalcy from this deadly virus. However, the distribution of a newly produced drug is not something to be taken lightly considering the uncertainty of long term side effects and the rushed nature of its development. Despite the horrors of the pandemic, administering the vaccine so soon after its creation is a dangerous gamble.

Companies have released important information about the short-term side effects experienced by those who partook in the multitude of clinical trials for the vaccines. According to NBC Washington, participants of Moderna and Pfizer’s September COVID-19 vaccine trials reported experiencing high fever, body aches, bad headaches, daylong exhaustion and other symptoms after receiving the shots. Both companies acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with mild COVID-19, such as muscle pain, chills and headaches.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines function by delivering mRNA to cells in the body, priming the immune system to recognize and attack the virus–a procedure untried in the scientific world. Tal Brosh, head of the Infectious Disease Unit at Samson Assuta Ashdod Hospital, acknowledged that there are unknown risks to this kind of vaccine. Among the possibilities are local and systemic inflammatory responses that could result in autoimmune disorders. U.S. history teacher Lisa MacFarlane said, “It’s a little concerning. I would definitely want to read more about that before I get the vaccine.”

Furthermore, many debate the effectiveness of the vaccine. Michal Linial, a professor of biological chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, theorizes the vaccine’s mRNA method could fail, lulling people into a false sense of immunity. Even if the mRNA successfully enters the membrane, the vaccine’s long-term efficacy remains in question. Not only will more people die due to the vaccine’s unreliability, but countries will be forced to execute a costly additional round of vaccinations.

As more vaccines are administered, the number of unexpected side effects and allergic reactions have been steadily increasing. According to WCVB, six life-threatening allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine have been reported after its distribution, such as anaphylaxis and hives. If vaccines continue to be administered without a proper understanding of their allergic implications, they will be working against their intentions.

Even though these trials have revealed a plethora of short term effects, they fail to provide any information on long term effects. These effects may emerge only after a large percent of the population has already taken the vaccine. This means that millions of people could end up with severe illnesses in a couple of years, and humanity would find itself in another health crisis. Even though scientists have said that they plan to keep an eye out for dangerous or unexpected long term effects, they continue to make the public helpless guinea pigs in a massive experiment that could cost us our lives. 

One extreme incident that generated concern was that of an anonymous participant in one of the clinical trials of the vaccine. This participant suffered from spinal cord damage due to inflammation caused by the vaccine, resulting in British regulators pausing testing. The company conducting the trial, AstraZeneca, attempted to conceal details about this terrifying incident, leaving many to question whether they can trust these pharmaceutical companies when they are not fully transparent. The fear of another life-altering accident could happen again is shared by many. Sophomore Juan Amaya said, “It really just scares me. I feel bad for the person who participated and thought that they were finally getting a cure but now has to suffer great consequences.”

We are living through trying and unprecedented times, and have been presented with a new scientific discovery shrouded in controversy and confusion. Though it has the potential to save millions, this new vaccine could also harm just as many lives through drastic and unforeseen consequences. We must take careful steps to ensure our health, thus the general population should refrain from scrambling to get vaccinated until there is enough information to make a well-informed decision. A massive number of people throughout the world have already been sickened by this pandemic, we should not put millions of healthy people at risk because of our desperation.