History tells us that it takes more than vaccines to end a pandemic, this is still true. The science behind disease transmission, infection, and prevention can only get us so far. Ending a pandemic requires scientific advancement and social cooperation.
Vaccination efforts for smallpox began in 1796 when Edward Jenner observed that people who previously contracted cowpox were unaffected by smallpox. After observing this, he began to work on developing a vaccine.
After the development of the smallpox vaccine, it still took almost 150 years for smallpox to be eradicated. While the vaccine became more popular around the country, there was still hesitancy and concern around the vaccine.
Gaining social trust is the key to implementing any type of transmission, prevention, or vaccination protocols among society. This is where politics, communication, and research become intertwined for the cause. Without effective communication to convey the research, society may be uneasy about the protocols. Additionally, if society doesn’t approve of the political figure that delivers the message, it can further disrupt the protocol.
This is where we have come to a halt with the COVID-19 pandemic. Social cooperation is at a low point right now. Part of society feels like the mandates are for our own good, while another part feels like our rights are being trampled upon.
In addition to social trust, there can be complications with the research. While we have a vaccine for COVID-19, there are still a lot of unknown factors about transmission. Scientists have concerns that symptom-less and pre-symptomatic patients are at a high risk for transmission.
Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center published an article discussing the effects of symptom-less transmission. According to their research, symptom-less transmission silently drives viral spread and is key to ending the pandemic.
This is something that is not easily measured in trials. Often, the clinical trials often use younger, healthier patients than the majority of “real-world” people. Also, clinical trials, have more controlled environments while there are uncontrollable factors in the real world. Real-world factors such as vaccine transportation and storage can reduce vaccine effectiveness.
With doubts about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness so high, achieving any type of herd immunity is nearly impossible. In a survey that was released in late January, 13% of Americans said they would “definitely not” get vaccinated, 7% would take the vaccine only if it was “required,” and another 31% would “wait and see how it’s working” before getting vaccinated.
All of these circumstances work for the pandemic’s longevity. If we want to end this pandemic and any future pandemic, we need to boost social cooperation along with the vaccinations. Having only one part of the solution won’t get us anywhere.
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Written for Passport Health by Brittany Evans. Brittany is a freelance writer and photographer in North Carolina. She has a passion for the outdoors, health information, and traveling. You can find her at her website.