The pandemic is a hoax! The virus is an act of bioterrorism and is lab-made! Death rates are inflated! Bill Gates is a scapegoat! Such conspiracy theories during a time of existential threat are inevitable. In a time of turmoil, the truth becomes nuanced. Yet, there seems to be a glimmer of hope, as COVID-19 vaccines are currently being distributed. Nevertheless, this is still on the horizon.
It’s no surprise that there is a severe case of political polarization in the United States today. What was once known as ‘The Land of the Free’ where the American Dream could be achieved by any and all, seems to be a thinly veiled analogy between the illusion of false hope and a figment of reality. Only two months ago, an armed and angry mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with the police just as Congress assembled to validate Joe Biden’s presidential victory; if that doesn’t portray the fragility of the American ideal, I’m not sure what will. But perhaps what’s more daunting is social media’s capacity to influence, dramatize, and alter our political beliefs - to the extent which it manipulates the truth. However, if vaccines are the last grasp on optimism and hope in order to return back to “normal,” why are people still anti-vax?
Vaccination opposition isn’t a new concept. As long as there have been vaccines, there have always been people who have expressed disapproval of them. In fact, opposing vaccines started back in the early 1800s with the smallpox vaccine. The notion of administering a person with a part of the disease to protect them from smallpox was heavily condemned. The disapproval was based on sanitary, religious, and political reasons. Some priests believed that taking the vaccine was sinful, as it “manipulated and influenced human nature” since it was genetically engineered and, therefore, was unorthodox and unacceptable.
People also tend to think the risks of the vaccine prevail over the benefits, which is currently the biggest expostulation in the United States. Parents have alluded to several medical threats, including autism, as possible consequences of being vaccinated. Yet while multiple studies which had large sample sizes have shown that vaccines do not cause autism, the mistrust of science continues to persist.
As predicted, the same trend can be seen with the COVID-19 vaccines. Aside from the few cases of anaphylactic shock that occur within minutes of receiving the injection, no other menacing side effects have appeared in the millions of doses that have been dispensed. But while research is still ongoing and continues to develop, perhaps people are rightfully skeptical, and perhaps, we will always remain divided.