Letter to my pre-vaccinated self

Tvisha Goel, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Dear Pre-vaccinated self,

I just wanted to thank you for making the bold decision to get vaccinated. For the past year and a half, COVID-19 is all I’ve been hearing about. I have been so cautious for that duration of time, but now, after having gotten jabbed twice, I am finally able to get out into the free world.

As you would know, I am inherently extroverted, so being inside the house for a year and a half with only screen-to-screen contact was quite…miserable. I managed to get through it without having more than five mental breakdowns though. And then, when I got poked for the first time, my my, was it worth it! I did not think that seeing another human being would be so relieving, but it felt like someone removed a plastic bag over my head. 

Therefore I shall remain eternally grateful to you for making probably the best decision ever to be made in my lifetime. Yes, even better than choosing to apply to schools in any location but the Southern United States. 

However grateful I am for your decision, I am nonetheless mournful that you were unable to convince more to join you in getting vaccinated. Since you chose to get jabbed 4 months ago, more than 700,000 people have contracted the disease, and more than 8,500 have died. I wish more people had followed the simple message to get vaccinated. That’s the right thing to do, for themselves and for others. While there are religious and medical exceptions to this1, getting vaccinated is the best thing to combat the virus that has plagued this country, this world, for far too long. 

Unfortunately, the country remains divided on this issue of public health. What is even more unfortunate though is that it truly seems like only America has created a politicized barrier around taking the vaccine. Some regions in the US have high vaccination rates, and their positivity rates regarding COVID-19 range from 3% to 6% and other regions in the US with low vaccination rates have positivity rates 12% to 20%. The extreme polarization in the US regarding vaccines has not been seen among America’s peers. While many know that the vaccines are safe and have gotten fully immunized, too many others hold beliefs that result in their hesitancy to get the vaccine. What they fail to recognize is that the risks that COVID-19 and its different variants pose outweigh the “what ifs” of a vaccine that has been developed by scientists.

Concerns about the vaccines include the idea that vaccines were developed too fast and were under emergency authorizations, leading to the concept of unknown side effects. 

No one wants to put something completely foreign into their bodies. However, COVID-19 vaccines have no placement in this category. The FDA has explained emergency use authorization, stating that it is “a mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.” 

This does not mean that the vaccines are any less safe and effective, just that certain processes are expedited. Vaccines that go through the natural length of time in terms of these processes take up to 10-15 years to be approved by the FDA. If the country had waited for the full duration of time for these vaccines to be approved even more Americans would have died. 

COVID-19 vaccines were rigorously tested before being approved for the public. They have been officially approved by career scientists and physicians with expertise in vaccine development complexity and evaluation of the safety and efficacy of vaccines meant to combat infectious diseases. Why won’t so many people trust scientists to know science?Whom do they trust? 

Furthermore, clinical trials were conducted before approval, optimizing the safeness and effectiveness of the vaccines under emergency use. The FDA explains that “Initially, in phase 1, the vaccine is given to a small number of generally healthy people to assess its safety at increasing doses and to gain early information about how well the vaccine works to induce an immune response in people. Phase 2 studies include more people, where various dosages are tested on hundreds of people with typically varying health statuses and from different demographic groups, in randomized-controlled studies. These studies provide additional safety information on common short-term side effects and risks, and may provide initial information regarding the effectiveness of the vaccine. In phase 3, the vaccine is generally administered to thousands of people in randomized, controlled studies involving broad demographic groups, and generates critical information on effectiveness and additional important safety data.” 

I wish that the same people who fight for the right to have a gun for protection would argue for a vaccine that can offer defense against an illness that can be just as deadly. I wish that all those who still scream loudest about masks would take steps so that they would not be needed anymore. I wish that the people who complain so much about the bias of Hollywood stopped living as if I am Legend were true. I wish that we could get back to wishing for things that are truly miraculous to happen instead of hoping that acting for the common good would become common again. 

So, thank you for choosing hope over fear, for listening to scientists instead of fabulists, for masking up instead of showing off, and for giving me the confidence to try to change the minds of others. I can only pray that my courage and determination to do what is right may rub off on those who feel held back from doing the same. 

With love,

Your Still-Living Self