The Food and Drug Administration’s recent authorization of all three COVID-19 vaccine boosters was an awaited step in getting booster shots available to the University of Wisconsin campus community. As of now, booster doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines are freely available for all students and staff by appointment through the University Health Services online portal or app.
The FDA even approved the “mixing and matching” of COVID boosters. This means those who originally received the Moderna vaccine, for example, can now receive either the Moderna, Pfizer or J&J booster.
With a 95% and growing campus vaccination rate, some may conclude getting a booster shot is unnecessary since the COVID-19 case rate is so low. But, like many other vaccines, boosters are necessary and recommended “because you need the extra doses to get longer lasting protective immunity,” according to Yale Medicine infectious diseases expert Dr. Albert Shaw. Waning immunity is an issue booster shots can easily solve.
This extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is especially important as we continue to see breakthrough cases due to new variants of the virus, like the delta variant. It is also imperative we continue to protect those on campus who have underlying medical conditions or who are immunocompromised. While the vaccines and boosters are especially important for these people, it is equally essential the rest of us stay vaccinated up to date in order to maintain collective, prolonged immunity to the virus.
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But what are we to make of other vaccine skepticism that currently clouds the political climate of our country and state? Is it a matter of politics, stubbornness or genuine unease surrounding the vaccine?
A frequent claim made by those hesitant to get vaccinated is the development of the COVID-19 vaccine was “rushed” and is therefore unsafe or untrustworthy. But rest assured — vaccine studies can credibly point to the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 immunizations. The initial vaccine trials for Pfizer and Moderna were completed with tens of thousands of volunteers.
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were found to be about highly effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. In fact, no serious or life-threatening side effects were recorded in the results of these vaccine studies.
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There are also several explanations as to why and how the COVID-19 vaccine was developed quickly. According to John Hopkins Medicine, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were developed with mRNA technology, which is a method that has been in use and development for two decades. This made it possible for these manufacturers to begin the process of development early on during the start of the pandemic.
The long-established science and studies behind the COVID-19 vaccine leave little room for vaccine myths and the hyper-fears some Americans and Wisconsinites perpetuate. This poses the question of why there is a red-blue political divide over COVID-19 immunizations. Why has something so established, critical and basic to public health become a platform for politicization?
According to Pew Research Center data, left-leaning Americans hold a significantly higher vaccination rate than right-leaning Americans. Political reluctance to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can stem from many different beliefs. Apart from vaccine myths and baseless conspiracies, the opposition to vaccines among many Republicans overwhelmingly stems from the belief that the government and institutions like UW are overstepping freedoms in their encouragement or mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine.
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By subscribing to this ideology, one fails to consider the supposedly perceived governmental or institutional overreach is intended to save lives. As quoted in this journal for the Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Initiative, “Anti-vaccine activists like to talk about rights and freedom but what they really want is freedom without consequences.”
As the state of Wisconsin nears 900,000 total COVID-19 cases and 9,000 resulting deaths, it is time to put faulty politics and vaccine myths aside. These immunizations are already at work in helping to prevent illness, hospitalization and death. The COVID-19 immunization and booster vaccine is free, safe, effective and saves lives.
Ultimately, it’s a no-brainer — get the shot.
Hallie Claflin ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science.