After a year of COVID-19 health restrictions, Utah is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccine administration is on the rise as hundreds of Utahns receive the vaccine daily. Because of this, we can feasibly consider seeing friends and family safely again, having an in-person Fall 2021 semester and, in general, a potential return to a new normal. But we can only remain optimistic if everyone who can get vaccinated actually does so. Everyone needs to do their research and understand that the vaccine is safe and effective. This is the only way to get “back to normal,” and we shouldn’t waste that opportunity because of misinformation about the vaccine.
As per the newest guidelines, all Utahns 16 and up are eligible to get vaccinated, as of March 24th. Hopefully, this will allow the majority of Utah’s population to sign up for the first dose of the vaccine in April and receive the second dose in May, working closer and closer towards herd immunity. This news is especially pertinent as Utah’s Legislature and Governor Cox signed off on a bill to lift the statewide mask mandate by April 10 — excluding groups larger than 50, schools and private businesses, who may choose to enforce masks still. However, only 23% of our population is vaccinated as of April 3rd, and most of our counties are still in moderate to high transmission rates. This makes it even more important for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
But a threat to Utah’s vaccine rollout is the conspiracy theories and blatant lies that plague social media. There are claims that getting the vaccine could result in everything from microchip implantation to genetic mutation. Many of these conspiracies can easily be debunked with a fact check from the CDC, WHO or local medical clinics. For instance, one rumor states that the COVID-19 vaccine will alter our DNA, with some theorizing that the zombie apocalypse in “I Am Legend” will become a reality. But a quick search will tell you that this is patently false — most companies are using mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, which, while a newer practice, have been proven to be safe and effective in protecting against the virus.
Along with that, we also have access to ingredient lists, results from clinical trials and other scientific data available to us with just a few clicks. This valuable information that may not have been available to us 20 years ago can easily be found — but even with such thorough research at our disposal, misinformation tends to take precedence over facts. This is alarming, especially when so many lives are on the line. In reality, the benefits of the vaccine greatly outweigh any risks.
All of the solid research available tells us that the technology we have and the medical science we used to develop the vaccine are safe. The vaccines were developed at record speeds, but that doesn’t mean that they did not meet the stringent requirements of the testing process and FDA approval. Proving to be 90-95% effective against COVID-19, these vaccines are some of the best created. There’s no reason to lie when so many lives have been lost during the past year from this virus.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to ensure your safety and your community’s safety, but it doesn’t replace the guidelines we’ve been living by for the past year. It has been a long year, filled with loss, grief and loneliness, but we cannot let up now in stopping the spread of COVID-19. After vaccination, we should still wear a mask in public spaces, practice social distancing and wash our hands often. The good news is that CDC’s most recent guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals can be with other fully vaccinated individuals without masks on. This guideline also extends to low-risk unvaccinated individuals, who can be with fully vaccinated individuals of the same household without masks. These shifts signify a return to normal, but that can only be accomplished if you get vaccinated and help others get vaccinated, especially those who may face language and technological barriers.
Research if you’re wary and then make the right decision by going to get vaccinated. You, your loved ones and your community will be safer by doing so. And with campus opening up this fall, alongside the rest of the world, we can be safe and be social. Find and sign up for the vaccine and tell your loved ones to get vaccinated, too, because each jab in the arm is a step closer to putting this pandemic behind us.