There is some long-needed good news in the air these days in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Food and Drug Administration has given emergency approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which began shipping late this past weekend. Meanwhile, the Moderna vaccine is scheduled to present its case for emergency approval this week, and if also gains an emergency blessing, it will begin shipping immediately, as well.
The vaccines will be administered based on priorities set out by the states. In South Dakota, health care personnel who work directly with COVID-19 and employees at long-term care facilities are first in line in what will be a process that should eventually see the vaccine available to the general public by April or May, according to officials with the Department of Health.
And that is all good news, despite the fact that we still face a long, uncertain winter before us before the vaccine is available on a broad basis.
Also, there are still hurdles to be conquered. For instance, the orderly nationwide distribution of the vaccine must be ironed out, and this must now become a top priority of federal officials.
However, another looming hurdle will likely be a general ambivalence among some people to take the vaccine. According to an Associated Press/NORC poll released last week, only about half of Americans say they would definitely get the vaccine. Another 27% said they were unsure, but more than one-fourth of the respondents (26%) said they would not get the vaccine under any circumstance. Surprisingly, more males than females said they would get the vaccine. Not so surprisingly, the number of those who are certain they would get the vaccine climbed with age.
To be fair, one can understand the reticence. The vaccine has been pushed through channels quickly — remember, we only became aware of COVID-19 less than a year ago — and no one could be blamed for wanting to see that the vaccine actually works AND doesn’t have any severe side effects. Also, the whole COVID issue has been politicized to an unfortunate degree, which has become both polarizing and dangerous.
To that end, any showing of support for vaccine from our leadership is needed. For instance, the pledges by former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to take the vaccines live on television may be helpful.
On that note, we commend South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, who states in his latest weekly column — published on this page today (Tuesday) — that he will take the COVID-19 vaccine. He cites his wife Jean, who is battling cancer, and his concern for her health. He also notes that the vaccine, while it has been produced at a lightning pace, has nonetheless been tested rigorously; it would not be released to the public without such extensive study. Finally, Rounds also calls on South Dakotans to continue practicing safety precautions like wearing masks (“darn masks,” he wrote) and social distancing while many of us await our opportunities to take the vaccine.
There is still a long way to go in our COVID fight, but reinforcements are on the march. Hope is lighting up the skies, and perhaps normalcy is on the horizon. But we all have much to do in the meantime, from staying protected to getting injected. It’s the only way we can win this war.