Question: A vaccine for COVID-19

All we hear these days is that there is a vaccine coming for the novel coronavirus. I think it’s wonderful and necessary for scientists to be working on a vaccine, but rushing the process could prove dangerous for the next generation.

It takes years to create vaccines, 10-15 years on average (https://www.ifpma.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/IFPMA-ComplexJourney-2019_FINAL.pdf). The standard procedure requires years to study their effects in the lab before even moving trials to humans. We are planning on having a vaccine for a virus that is not yet a year old, and we are trying it first on the most vulnerable in our society. Does that seem like a good idea?

Seniors, people of color, the economically poor, and those with preexisting conditions will be first to get the vaccine. Are these people in the clinical trials? An article from UC Health stated that some vulnerable populations will be in their trials, which I am thankful for (https://www.uchealth.com/press-releases/clinical-trial-for-covid-19-vaccine/). But how extensive will trials be before subjecting these populations to the vaccine?

I believe I am more skeptical because of the Tuskegee Study. In the years between 1932 and the early 1970s, African American males were placed in a study to track the long-term effects of syphilis in the body (https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/index.html). The problem with the study was that the men did not know that they were being used in the experiment. They were simply lab rats for the United States public health system. Most participants—individuals from an already oppressed and marginalized population—were exploited until their death with only the promise of free medical appointments and meals.

When we rush, we often make major mistakes even when our intentions are good. And we often look to those most vulnerable to carry the risk. As much as we want an answer to COVID-19 and to get back to our lives as usual, the most defenseless in our population should not be the first to test the vaccine on a large scale. The most vulnerable should remain in isolation as much as they can, as we all practice social distancing, wear masks, and maintain the social bubbles of those at risk. We should prepare safe spaces for them to gather and navigate our society. They deserve that kind of care.

Each of us should be prepared to do our part in the years before widespread inoculation to COVID-19. If wearing masks and social distancing helps slow the virus (whose lasting effects we have yet to learn), would it not be safer for all to continue these practices? Consider your loved ones. Consider the next generation. What if this vaccine works in the short run but over time causes other health issues? We need to not push for a vaccine fast, but a vaccine that will tackle this and many other coronaviruses if possible. 

Some people are willing to be the subjects of vaccine testing. I thank God for those who risk their health as an act of service to humankind, for the betterment of all. But a human subject of such an experiment should be fully aware of one’s choice and reasoning for doing so. No one should do this out of fear or ignorance. We will need people from all walks of life to help ensure that our world is better prepared for the next pandemic, but they should do so only in freedom and through well-informed decisions. The vulnerable must be protected and treated with the dignity they deserve.

8 thoughts on “Question: A vaccine for COVID-19

  1. Caprice J Becker on said:

    Very important to point out the problems with rushed vaccine (or any medication) approval. Thanks for pointing out the dangers to the already disenfranchised. I was only thinking about how long it really does take us to know the full risks and benefits–often years after a medication’s release for wide spread prescribing.

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Caprice I would love for us to find a vaccine. The death toll is staggering. But I know when money is involved, and the race to be the first, humans will take short cuts and even flat out lie about finding. We must keep a watchful eye. Blessings

  2. 1. An op ed by Denise Grady in the NYT (about beginning vaccine trials by Moderna) highlights some of the problems you address:

    “The fastest way to get results is to test the vaccine in a “hot spot” with many cases, and the study is looking for people at high risk because of their locations or circumstances.

    “More than half of the participants had side effects, including fatigue, chills, headaches, muscle aches and pain at the injection site. Some had fever. One person who received the low dose developed hives and was withdrawn from the study. None of the side effects were considered serious.”

    2. Years ago, I saw a play about the Tuskegee Study, probably “Miss Evers’ Boys.” The moral issues examined are staggering. One white man in the audience passed out. Up close, inequality stuns.

    “As one of the doctors says, ‘Those men should have been given a choice,’ ” says [David] Feldshuh [playwright.] “One of the reasons we’ve evolved this safeguard (of informed consent) is (because of) the Holocaust and the Nuremberg trials, which stated that people should be given full awareness of the consequences of what things might affect them.”

    Thank you for a thoughtful essay, Cyneatha.

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Thanks Greta, I have also saw Miss Evers’ Boys, powerful. I just want people to pause and think before rushing to take the vaccine. Informed decisions are critical.

  3. Berni Kaufman on said:

    Well put, Cyneatha. Like others, I would like to see this come to a solution soon. But not at the risk of the vulnerable. And not if there are long-term affects. Thank you for bringing this perspective to light.

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Thanks Berni. Great to hear from you. I too pray that God will provide the healing balm to this crisis, and I am confident that God will. We have to do our part in slowing the spread.

  4. Elizabeth Soto on said:

    As a medical contribution I have applied to participate in the Corvid-19 Vaccine Study at the University of Maryland medical center. Yes, it will take us time to find a vaccine, yet we need people that volunteer themselves to be part of studies like this one. As a health educator I believe in education and prevention. So I decided for the benefit of my grandchildren to be part of this experiment. Knowledgeable somewhat of the potential side affects I pray it won’t be as bad as the annual Flue shout I need to take every yr in order to work in the hospitals in Lancaster as an Spanish Interpreter. The vaccine hurts and I feel under the weather for a few days not counting my arm is sore as well. May God have mercy on all of us and we practice safe behaviors: wear our mask, wash our hands often and keep social distance. BE Well Be Safe!!

    • Cyneatha Millsaps on said:

      Elizabeth thank God for you and the many people who have volunteered. I pray God’s protection on your bodies as you undertake the pain associated with clinical trials. I believe educators like yourself are the best to not only participate in the trials, but also to help guide others through the data. You can speak clearly about side effects, if there are any. I am also grateful that you as a person of color has signed up. We will need people of color and women as volunteers, I wish I could to it. My distrust of the government and big business keeps me on the sidelines. So pray for me and I will pray for you. And we all with trust in God to get us through this storm. Blessings.

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