Blog Global Health Center COVID-19

Vaccinations: The path back to normal?

Written by Sabir Khan, fourth year medical student at University College Dublin, Ireland, and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

Everyone’s normal turned upside down about a year and a half ago. People faced problems that they had never even thought of. Yet here we are, looking towards the end of the tunnel of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone’s excited for things to get back to normal, but are we ready to go out again? Is it safe?

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Well, almost half of the U.S has been vaccinated, as well as many other countries, rolling out the vaccines as fast as they can. Yet there are some individuals that don’t take the vaccine, as they believe it can cause more harm than good. I am not trying to correct them nor attack them, but I believe that many of these people have made the decision on fictitious data, that has scared them from the idea of it. And rather than trying to “convince” these people to take the vaccine, perhaps a better route would be to use infomercials to address these fears, understand the benefits of vaccines, and most importantly, clear any misconceptions about it.

Misconceptions regarding vaccine started in the scientific community itself. Scientists desperate to get their work published falsified data (data that they picked and chose) and linked the MMR vaccine to autism. These fake articles called for a lot of media coverage and created even more false rumors about vaccines.

One must be alert or critical while reading articles, even scientific ones! Data that correlates does not establish a causal relationship. A funny book titled Spurious Correlations by Tyler Vigen looks for such data that has no connection such as “movies Nicholas Cage appeared in and the “number of people that drowned by falling into the pool.” Now, we know that’s not true, but if you look at the graph below its quite convincing!  Hence, while reading research papers, we must think of external factors that could affect the results of the study.

Finally, I’d like to mention one of the key benefits of getting vaccinated that is sometimes overlooked: we can protect individuals that are not vaccinated, a concept better known as “Herd Immunity”. It indirectly protects the non-vaccinated population. This effect only occurs after a certain percentage of the population has been vaccinated (~70%), as the infectious agent is less likely to get to that individual.