The State of Vaccination in America

“To live without hope is to cease to live” -Fyodor Dostoevsky


Ryan Lally

With the arrival of the various coronavirus vaccines, something even more valuable has come back to many Americans: Hope. For the elderly and immunocompromised Americans, the vaccines bring the hope of safety and human contact. For the Americans compelled by authority to obey preventative measures (i.e. online school, mask wearing, limited capacities in public spaces), they bring the hope of returning to what once was normal and taken for granted. But it seems that although enormous strides have been made in a field so integral to the life and health of every American, not many people know exactly when, how, or to whom COVID-19 vaccines are distributed.   

Because vaccination is such a critical issue, the CDC and FDA have essentially delegated vaccination power to the state governments. This decision is meant to strike a sort of balance in which the state government is small enough to facilitate a certain area and population, but large enough to grant vaccinations to anyone who needs them, regardless of economic ability. In theory, this strategy is great, and it is a gift to those who could not afford vaccinations. In practice, however, vaccination is no small feat. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be administered to each patient. The first uses Messenger RNA to expose a person’s body to a harmless virus akin to the coronavirus. This allows the body’s immune system to build up a small resistance to such viruses. The second shot boosts the body’s response drastically. Antibody production skyrockets, which takes all the strength one has, causing side-effects like fatigue, fever, and headache. Some have reported not being able to get out of bed for a few days after receiving their second dose. The twofold vaccination process is effective at fighting the disease, but administering these two doses at the right interval is crucial for them to be potent. It is not easy to track down hundreds of millions of Americans at the exact right times, which explains why we do not all have the vaccine.  

Another critical step in the fight against the Coronavirus was the development of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This vaccine only requires one dose, which will, theoretically, speed up America’s vaccination and bring coronavirus to a screeching halt. But, let’s be real.  Nothing has gone completely right for us in the past year. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is no exception. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine made headlines Wednesday for an accusation made by Archdioceses across the country (including New Orleans, Fort Worth, and St. Louis).  According to the reports, the vaccine was made and tested using aborted fetal cells, an immediate moral concern to Catholics everywhere. To clarify, fetal cells were used in the creation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, particularly in the composition of the harmless adenovirus meant to simulate coronavirus. According to Dr. Ashley Garling, professor at the University of Texas College of Medicine, “Having a virus grown in a human cell does make it much easier and more effective when it’s being put into a human.”  The moral dilemma raised is an interesting one, but those dioceses who have issued statements pertaining to the vaccine state that it is permissible to take if there is no other option readily available.  

In Missouri, 15% of residents have been given at least one shot (ranking 45th among the United States). This puts the state slightly below the national count of 16%. When those who have received two shots are counted (the one-dose vaccine is much newer and has not been streamlined to the point of numerical relevance), 7.7% of Missouri residents are fully vaccinated.  8.4% of the United States population has been fully vaccinated. The target “herd immunity” threshold lies somewhere between 50% and 80%. So, there is still a very long way to go before this nation is out of the woods, making one question the decisions of governors such as Texas’s Greg Abbott, who decided to open public spaces at full capacity with no restrictions whatsoever. But all Missourians ought to worry about is Missouri. If America wants to have some sense of normalcy in the months and years to come, it is critical that we “finish through the line,” so to speak, and see out vaccination to the best of our ability.