Pandemic is defined, according to Merriam-Webster, as:
“an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population”
This is the noun. There’s also an adjective which I never considered using but I digress.
Looking back at five pandemics in history — the Plague of Justinian, the Black Death, the Great Plague of London, smallpox, and cholera — vaccination did not exist for the first three. In those instances, sick people were avoided or isolated. Smallpox was eradicated after 200 years of vaccines. Cholera still exists but was mostly wiped out through access to clean drinking water and improved sewage treatment.
Which brings us to the current pandemic. Over 150 vaccines are being developed to combat COVID-19. Healthcare experts suggest clinical trials and regulatory approvals won’t be finalized until the second half of 2021.
Unfortunately, vaccines may not end the pandemic — because surveys continue to indicate that 25-50% of the U.S. population will refuse vaccination.
One of the latest is a survey of 1,267 Americans, conducted by Tufts University, indicating that 57% are willing to receive a vaccine, 18% are opposed, and 24% don’t know. (By the way, there is fascinating data in that survey about race, income, and education inequities about vaccination.)
An earlier Pew survey of 10,957 Americans indicated 72% would take a vaccine if it was offered today.
I don’t know why there’s a divergence between the two polls, as they’re both representative, but I don’t think one is any less valid than the other.
One of the reasons why people are skeptical about vaccines (evidenced by perusing Facebook comments, such as on this Southwest Florida TV station page) is because of potential side effects.
This could be assuaged with education.
“In a small clinical trial with the kinds of platforms that are being examined here for COVID-19, you rarely see severe reactions,” says Wayne Koff, president and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project, a public-private partnership that seeks to accelerate vaccine development. Adults and children receive millions of doses of approved vaccines each year across the world, and severe reactions are extremely rare.– National Geographic, June 30, 2020
When you think about the millions (billions?) of dollars spent on the global race to create vaccines, and if even 25% are unwilling to get the vaccine and therefore not help to eradicate the pandemic, I wonder if the pandemic will ever end.