Both politicians and public health officials have rested their hopes on a resolution of the COVID-19 crisis on the eventual availability of a COVID vaccine. More than one government leader has said that lockdowns, restrictions, and mask orders won’t disappear until a vaccine is created and distributed. But how realistic is it to assume that a vaccine will be successful, and will that vaccine be safe for Americans?
One has to worry that because a vaccine is being rushed to market to satisfy political desires, corners will be cut. And because of that, there could be dangers to the vaccine that may not have shown up during trials. Many people in their 60s and older probably remember the Cutter Incident, in which over 200,000 children received doses of polio vaccine with live viruses, resulting in 40,000 cases of polio, 200 cases of paralysis, and 10 deaths. And the polio vaccine continued to be dogged by problems with viral contamination into the 1960s.
Adverse side effects haven’t disappeared either, as problems with the Gardasil HPV vaccine have demonstrated. And with a rush to get a coronavirus vaccine to market, one has to wonder what kind of adverse reactions we might see.
From what we know of coronavirus so far, it appears that antibodies against coronavirus only last for a few months. That leads to questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, and whether individuals receiving the vaccine will have to continue to receive multiple doses, possibly forever, in order to achieve immunity. There are also questions about whether immunity against one strain of coronavirus will protect against other strains, similar to the problems with flu vaccines that protect against strains that may not be the dominant flu strain.
Even more concerning is the fact that manufacturers of coronavirus vaccines have received indemnity against liability in numerous countries as a condition of producing and providing the vaccine. That has long been the case in the US, where federal law prohibits lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers, forcing victims into an arbitration-type process instead through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Given the fact that some versions of the vaccine induce adverse reactions in 50% of recipients, the chances of severe adverse reactions shouldn’t be underestimated.
If you’re looking forward to normality once a coronavirus vaccine hits the market, you might have a long while to wait. Possibly only 50% of Americans would voluntarily get vaccinated, and can you blame those who don’t want to? A vaccine rushed to market, with manufacturers indemnified if anything goes wrong – who would want to subject themselves to that?