The medical, economic, social and constitutional effects of COVID-19 do not appear to be going away any time soon. In spite of the everyday wish to get over this uninvited medical disruption, the pieces needed to solve this puzzle are still not quite fitting together.
Every day we hear the message: “When everyone is vaccinated life will go back to normal.” Unfortunately, that idea is proving to be a mix of science fiction and wishful thinking. It is especially wearisome to hear this message in the corporate setting where business and media leaders preach this simplistic approach without any accountability or liability.
From the beginning of this experience with COVID-19, the definitional question (“what is this?”) has been the first gateway to understanding. COVID-19 is a variation of a coronavirus. It is not an alien infection dropped from outer space with powers no one has ever seen before. Understanding what this virus is, where it came from and how it is most likely to proceed are key pieces of this puzzle.
To date there are still essential questions for which no one seems to have certain answers. The origin of this virus is China. The Chinese, however, will not let the world in to conduct a complete and transparent conversation on the essential “ground zero” questions. If the Chinese had COVID-19 in their Wuhan lab then what did they do to it? When did they do it and why? How did the virus escape the lab and what else is left in Wuhan? Conspiracy theories fill in these blanks only because real answers are not available. This is now a question of foreign policy and national defense. The burden of discovery falls to the United States Congress and the President who together can pursue the complete answers wherever the trail may lead.
Every day we the people are being confronted by the “vaccine messengers” who have boiled this crisis down to a syringe-sized solution. “If everyone gets vaccinated, all will be well” is the constant message. Even the President of the United States got caught in a free-wheeling mind share the other day when he essentially said that if we all get the shots then we won’t get sick. Of course, that is not what he meant to say, but he still said it, just like a lot of other people do every day.
What we are hearing from the medical/scientific community is quite different. Evidence is mounting that there are significant and serious side effects that follow this vaccine. This is not a unique discovery as nearly every type of medical vaccine has attending side effects. With the COVID vaccine, side effects are statistically rare, but they are real. We know people who have been impacted by these side effects in multiple ways. The U.S. Government now reports at least 6,000 deaths attributed to reactions to the vaccines. Compared to 600,000 deaths attributed to complications from COVID-19 the ratio clearly commends the value of the vaccine. The math is simple. The real-life consequences of these side effects are not.
Real humans face real decisions every day trying to put together the puzzle pieces of COVID-19. Processing all the information and applying it to even a single life is complicated. No two people have exactly the same medical profile. Some people will take the vaccine and not have another care. Far fewer will take the vaccine but will still die of COVID-19 or vaccine side effects. Some will take the vaccine and have medical problems that will be a burden for life. Some people will take the vaccine and it will not work and they will get sick and recover. Do we not give people the whole story on vaccines because it won’t fit on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker? Or does it just feel better to pretend a vaccine therapy and wearing a mask solves the puzzle?
No drug company claims vaccines are 100% safe and effective. Unfortunately, many in the media and many corporate CEOs seem to have forgotten this fact. Their message on vaccines is singular and without accountability. They are not doctors (nor are we), but they are “on-message” all the time. What if their message is incomplete? What if there are people whose medical issues prevent them from taking the vaccines? What of those millions who have already overcome COVID-19 and now stand in good health with natural immunities at least as powerful as any vaccine can provide? Must they also now be vaccinated for a disease they have already overcome?
These new forms of vaccine treatments are saving lives but they have limitations and consequences. Currently the U.S. government is distributing a series of vaccines built upon the virus as it existed in early 2020. Those vaccines are built upon data that will soon be two-years old. In that time, the virus has already mutated multiple times into a host of new variants. For example, recently Tennessee reported a total of 1,000 cases where fully vaccinated people got sick with COVID-19 of which 27 people have died.
This is happening across the country for a logical scientific reason. Viruses change and jump the guardrails of vaccines. Therefore, the vaccine technology has to keep constantly changing. We may be facing a reality where people vulnerable to this virus may have to be vaccinated regularly for a long time.
If scientific and medical discoveries of the past hold true, there will come a time when COVID-19 will be something no one needs to talk about anymore, or hardly at all. Eventually nearly everyone will have encountered this virus and overcome it by their natural immune system or with the assistance of a vaccine. When this time called “herd immunity” arrives the virus will diminish because there are so few people left to infect. COVID-19 won’t die, it will fade away. The Spanish Flu virus of 1918 is still with us today but it has lost its power. This is the way viruses function in the real world.
Vaccines are an important and necessary piece of this puzzle. Vaccines are not perfect. They are not safe and effective 100% of the time. There are people with medical conditions that cannot take the current COVID-19 vaccines. The focus on “vaccines-only” in the U.S. has defrauded these equal citizens who are paying for the COVID-19 vaccines with their tax dollars but cannot benefit equally from vaccine therapy. This is why we must develop state and federal policies that will create therapeutic resources for people who cannot take the existing vaccines. It is time for Congress and the State Legislatures to step up and see these citizens who are being left behind.
The singular focus on vaccination empowers people to believe they are doing something noble to defeat the virus and save lives. It is a great campaign for t-shirts and bumper stickers and it has value. However, it does not solve the COVID-19 puzzle and leaves millions of people out in the cold. We need more scientific inquiry. We need a broader debate and a bigger set of solutions to ultimately overcome this crisis.
This position paper is the composite work of policy analysts from the American Policy Roundtable, a non-profit, non-partisan media, education and research corporation established in 1980. APR has no affiliation to political parties, social media companies, news outlets, pharmaceutical companies or political candidates.