Widespread Concerns over the Vaccine’s Ethical and Health Implications Debunked

Ishita Goel Staff Writer

Over the last few months, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of people willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine. There are several reasons which are responsible for the apprehension in the minds of people across the world. 

Religious Concerns

Recently, the Muslim population in Indonesia has expressed concerns about the vaccine manufactured by the Chinese company Sinovac. Indonesian safety regulators and an influential council of Muslim clerics were initially hesitant to approve the vaccine due to concerns that it may be laced with porcine materials, which could dissuade Islamists from inoculation. As of January 11th, Indonesia has approved the Sinovac vaccine due to increasing COVID-19 cases across the country but some members of the public may still hold concerns. 

Sinovac has issued a statement announcing that the vaccine was “manufactured free of porcine material;” however, this one-sentence statement was not enough to convince the clerics, who insisted on more details.

Looming questions about the safety of the vaccine and whether it is Halal have hindered the government’s efforts to inoculate 181.5 million adults in the next 15 months. “There shouldn’t be any concern about whether this vaccine is halal or not halal,” said President Joko Widodo. “We are in an emergency situation because of the COVID pandemic.”

Fear of vaccination in a country like Indonesia might prove dangerous, considering that the government has recorded nearly 800,000 infections and more than 23,000 deaths.

Safety Concerns

In September, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an american non-profit organisation which focuses on national health issues, found that 43% of people are not confident that the COVID-19 vaccine will have been tested for safety and effectiveness. In addition, in early October, another survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 62% of the people in the US are worried that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will rush to approve the vaccine for COVID-19, without accurately assessing the effectiveness and safety of vaccination, owing to political pressure. 

The mumps vaccine, which took four years, was the fastest vaccine to be developed. The COVID-19 vaccine has shattered that record with a breakneck pace of development. As a result, some people might feel worried about the vaccine and its contents. However, it is crucial that people understand that even though the first vaccines for COVID-19 were developed using new technology, there were no shortcuts to the process. “American public should be assured. There are no shortcuts in the vaccine development part.” said Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “When this vaccine comes off the line, I can tell you it will have met the criteria of any vaccine in the United States.”

The new technology used to develop the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is called messenger RNA. While this may be the first time this technology is being used globally, scientists have spent more than three decades developing this vaccine strategy.

Dr Stappenbeck, a neurology expert, says, “It was a lucky thing that the technology had been robustly developed quite well over the last few years and tested in several animal models of infection, so we knew that it was safe and worked quite well in these animal models.” 

Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies have put these vaccines through rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers. The vaccines have also been scrutinized by the FDA as well as an independent panel of vaccine experts. 

It is integral for the public to remain cautious of the myths and rumours surrounding these vaccines. Governments and pharmaceutical experts should continue to debunk myths by providing relevant information and staying transparent to raise public confidence.

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