Since the shutdowns began in spring, it’s often been said that life won’t go back to normal until a Covid-19 vaccine is released. But as case numbers have continued to grow, so too has skepticism about a vaccine. And it goes beyond the usual anti-vaxxer crowd: Prominent political leaders, including our governor and the speaker of the House of Representatives, have cast doubt on whether a vaccine produced under the current administration would be safe.
We reached out to readers to get their thoughts on this question. This story was being developed when President Donald Trump was promising that there could likely be a vaccine ready “within weeks,” and that it would be distributed by the military.
Amanda Upright, a local RN who worked with COVID-19 patients during the first onslaught of cases in New York, questioned if that were possible.
“Most vaccines take 12-15 years from lab to pharmacy,” said Upright. “How can this vaccine be created within just a few months?” She said she “does not trust the organizations producing it. We have learned that our government cares more about profit/economy than public well-being and safety.”
Ulster County resident Jesse Walter also doesn’t think a vaccine will be here soon.
“It’s going to be quite some time before we have an effective vaccine,” he said. “I think we will need a variety of treatments and gene therapy going forward besides a variety of vaccines.”
Kristine Logan and Jules Traugot said it would be important for sources outside the federal government to vet a vaccine before using it. “I would be looking for confirmation of safety from organizations other than the CDC and FDA since those organizations have been compromised,” said Logan.
“Agreed,” said Traugot. “I’d like to see reviews by the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic etc… who would provide assurance about the safety, effectiveness and side effects. There is too much political pressure and billions being given to pharmaceutical companies to trust them totally.”
Christina Vazquez said when the vaccine is released, she’ll just keep doing what she’s been doing. “My ability to practice good hygiene, socially distance, wear a mask, avoid crowded places and avoid sick people is on point and has been for years (not the mask part, but the rest),” she said. “I would be perfectly fine adapting my life to accommodate my lack of trust in a rush-to-market vaccine for a virus we know so very little about.”
Lulu Bouchard of New Paltz, said that “being 83, living a good life for the most part, not involved with most medicines, I would not take this vaccine or any flu shots. I kind of believe in the ‘thinning of the herd,’ and might be ‘thinning of the herd,’ orientated.”
Stephanie Lyons said that she and her family are “fully vaccinated,” including the most recent flu vaccine, but said that she would not “put a rushed vaccine that has minimal testing into my body or my child’s body.”
Others were less hesitant to try the vaccine when released.
Dave Reid, of Highland said that he would “take it (an approved vaccine) for the simple reason of helping society reach herd immunity.”
“I would take it the minute it came out,” said Troy Kuveikis. “A vaccine is just a weakened or dead virus. It’s not going to give Bill Gates my location or cause me to grow a third arm. And even if it did, that probably wouldn’t occur for 30 years,” he joked. “Save lives, the economy can re-open and we can begin to return to a sense of normalcy.”
Sarah Gardner, who is 72 and semi-retired, said that “if the FDA approves a vaccine, I will pray that Trump hasn’t corrupted the approval process, and line up for my shot. I would encourage everyone I know to do likewise. I was a little kid when polio was ravaging my generation. The vaccine was a game-changer for all of us.”
Several respondents cited the leader of director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as trustworthy.
“Only if Dr. Fauci says so!” said Lois Karam.
Ellen Munzer said that she “would need the green light from Dr. Fauci,” and if he gave the signal, the answer would be “yes.”
Others are consulting physicians they know.
“My husband is a doctor,” said Munzer, “and he says he will wait to see how I do after three months and then consider it. I think that he and other people will change their minds based on what information is given, what testing has been done, the science behind it and who is providing the information to the public.”
Dr. Stephen Weinman, of First Care Medical Center in Highland, said that from a doctor’s perspective, “we are currently somewhere in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and experts feel that we may not be significantly through it until December 2021…I believe the director of the CDC was correct in his recent statement that masks and social distancing are going to be much more important than a vaccine. I don’t imagine we will have a reasonably functioning vaccination program until the end of next year. I do think there are those that get carried away with how they deal with masking, but it is not rocket science. I don’t think masks are necessary outside if you can be six feet away from others. It is a different story when it comes to indoor masking. The virus will be more problematic indoors.”
Dr. Allison Lucchesi said that many of her patients are hopeful that she has “some special insider knowledge about the vaccine … but unfortunately, I have no magic information or answer,” she said. “I’m all for a vaccine, as long as it is FDA-approved and properly vetted through trials.”
The buzz in the medical field is that there are several vaccines in Phase 3 trials and that some of the front runners need to be stored in below-zero conditions which would limit its availability to transport and store. “There will be many issues regarding if and when a vaccine is ready,” Dr. Lucchesi said, “how to administer, availability limitations and who would get it first.”
In the meantime, “I recommend everyone get their flu shot this year and continue wearing masks,” she advised.