“This week, the Associated Press reports that about 1.3 million people in France made vaccine appointments in one day following new government mandates. President Emmanuel Macron announced that people in France would soon need special passes showing either their vaccination status or negative COVID-19 test results to go to restaurants and malls, or to ride in planes and trains. He also said vaccines would become mandatory for all healthcare workers in the fall.
To many people, these measures will sound draconian. But after an initial surge in vaccinations, the rate slowed down in the summer, so that right now only 41 percent of France’s population has been fully vaccinated. That’s well below the rate needed for herd immunity at a time when dangerous variants are threatening to extend the pandemic. We’re in a similar pickle in the U.S., where just 48 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and rates for new appointments have also been dropping.
So far, U.S. officials have chosen to use the carrot rather than the stick, with federal and state leaders offering prizes big and small to encourage vaccination. The question on everyone’s lips is whether vaccines will become mandatory here, too, though odds are that would happen at the level of states and businesses rather than the feds. Intriguingly, a June survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that half the respondents think U.S. employers should require their workers to get vaccinated—even though most people don’t want their own employer to make shots mandatory.
Underpinning the kerfuffle is the complex tangle of reasons why people remain unvaccinated. According to that Kaiser survey, 53 percent of respondents in the U.S. think the COVID-19 vaccine is too new and are worried about side effects. But the survey also found that workers whose employers offered paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from side effects were much more likely to report getting at least one dose of the vaccine. These results further underscore how much social equity, and not just hesitancy, will play a role in ending the pandemic. (Pictured above, a 2020 rally against flu shots for kids in Massachusetts.)
A smaller but still alarming number of people—26 percent—say they are skipping the COVID-19 shot because they don’t trust vaccines in general. That’s especially troubling when one of the brightest spots of the pandemic has been the rise in mRNA technology. The two mRNA vaccines currently in use continue to prove safe and effective, and that’s driving development of mRNA shots for a host of other diseases. Moderna has already started human clinical trials for an mRNA flu vaccine. And as Stacey Colino reports for us, promising clinical trials are underway for mRNA vaccines that can help beat back especially dire forms of cancer, including pancreatic cancer and melanoma (pictured above).
It’s tragic to think that heightened distrust of vaccines stoked during this pandemic might prevent people from taking advantage of future life-saving options. It’s equally tragic that people who may want vaccines can’t get them because they don’t have the necessary support systems. Vaccine mandates may well be in our future in the U.S., and I sincerely hope the people making them take all these factors into account and craft policies that ensure vaccines are seen as safe, reliable, and accessible to all.”
Source: National Geographic