After months of rumor and speculation, multiple COVID-19 vaccines have arrived on the scene. In the United States, pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfizer have both developed a COVID-19 vaccine, with early data suggesting excellent efficacy for both immunizations of at least 95%. Earlier this week, the United Kingdom became “the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.” According to the BBC, the UK has “ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate 20 million people.”
While Dr. Anthony Fauci stirred controversy when he said that the UK had “rushed” its approval of the vaccine, he later apologized, saying he has “a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint.” After apologizing, he “implied that the US would quickly be in a position to approve a vaccine,” saying, “We’ll be there. We’ll be there very soon.”
With approved and effective vaccines now a reality, the question now becomes “who should receive it?” In the UK, elderly people in care homes and care home staff are being prioritized, followed by those over the age of 80 and healthcare staff. In the United States, the CDC recommended that “nursing homes and health workers get vaccines first.” For those in these “high risk” categories, the “risk versus reward” calculus seems fairly obvious, especially for those in older age groups for whom the statistical impact of COVID-19 drastically increases.
But what about the rest of us? According to CDC data, over 31% of COVID-19 deaths correspond to people who are 85 years and over, and more than 58% of COVID-19 deaths correspond to people who are 75 years and over. Conversely, under 1% of COVID-19 deaths correspond to people who are 34 years and younger.
One crucial factor to consider when analyzing a vaccine is whether it prevents transmission. It is one thing for a vaccine to prevent symptoms, and another if it prevents you from spreading a disease. Despite the huge amount of (somewhat understandable) enthusiasm thrown behind the Pfizer vaccine, the company’s chairman provided some important information regarding the issue of transmission, saying “we’re not sure if someone can transmit virus after vaccination.”
— The Hill (@thehill) December 3, 2020
The issue of transmission simply has to be addressed before we humor the notion of mass (and possibly mandatory) vaccination. In simple terms, the concept of “herd immunity” relies on preventing enough individuals from being infected and/or transmitting the disease to provide sufficient protection for the entire population. If these COVID-19 vaccines “only” provide protection from serious symptoms, then while it is marvelous for the recipient, it does nothing to prevent the actual spread of the virus.
This opens up the obvious question of whether mass immunizations are justified. If the vast majority of younger people, for example, have mild to no symptoms and may transmit the virus whether they are immunized or not, why should they receive the vaccination if they decide not to? Given that Pfizer’s vaccine “must be delivered and stored in extreme sub-zero temperatures,” why justify the vast cost of vaccinating those for whom the benefits will be limited?
Ultimately, we have to answer the question of whether or not the vaccine prevents transmission before we discuss vaccinations for those who are — statistically — not at risk. While many skeptics are already being labeled as anti-science and anti-vaccine, if the vaccine doesn’t prevent transmission, the political and medical community simply must acknowledge that the question “why should everyone take it?” is more than reasonable.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.