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Get the vaccine

| Monday, April 12, 2021

After over a whole year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the end is finally within sight. Vaccinations are occurring across the U.S. at a rapid rate, including now at the University of Notre Dame. Courtesy of the Indiana Department of Health, students can receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the months of April and May. 

As a senior, this is exciting news. This means I will be fully vaccinated by graduation, and I can safely celebrate commencement with my family and friends after what has been a disappointing and arduous final year of college. However, there are several classmates and friends that do not share the same excitement as I do about the vaccine. There have been concerns about the vaccine’s safety and morality, and a considerable number of students are electing not to receive the Pfizer vaccine distributed by the University. Although the University has stated the vaccine will be mandatory for the following academic year, this will not change anyone’s concerns about the vaccine, and students may wait until the last minute to receive it. After hearing some reasons why some of my fellow classmates are hesitant to get vaccinated, I would like to address these concerns in this letter to help educate people to make the right choice.

To those concerned that the vaccine was rushed and may be unsafe: Although the vaccines being distributed started development not long after COVID-19 came along, scientists did not start from scratch. mRNA vaccines had been researched and developed for years before now. When the pandemic hit, scientists were ready to implement this technology relatively quickly.

To those concerned about the implementation of an mRNA vaccine, which has never been used before: The mRNA vaccine does work differently than a typical vaccine, but the end result is the same. Instead of your immune system reacting to the virus itself (like in other vaccines), the mRNA inside the vaccine instructs your body to make a “spike protein,” which is a part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Then, your immune system reacts to this protein by creating antibodies that will protect your body if the actual virus entered your system. The extra step of your body creating the protein has no negative effect on your body. The mRNA does not stay in your body, nor does it have the potential to alter or destroy cells. 

To those concerned about short term side effects from the vaccine: There are reported side effects right after getting the shot, especially if you’re younger or have already had COVID-19. Reactions like these are unpleasant, but not unnatural. They are a result of your immune system reacting to the vaccine. More severe side effects are possible, but quite rare and treatable. These side effects are a lot better than COVID-19 symptoms, which may last weeks or months.

To those concerned about long term side effects: These are of concern for a lot of people, especially since the vaccine has only been mass distributed for about five months. Previous vaccines have caused rare, severe long-term effects, typically within two months, but these vaccines contained the virus, which may result in a real infection. To date, there have been no reported long-term illnesses due to the COVID-19 vaccines in America. This may be because mRNA vaccines do not contain a virus, and mRNA cannot cause illness. Additionally, long-term effects are usually caused by constant exposure to a harmful chemical or component. If I walked into a room with lead paint then walked out, I would be fine, but if I lived in that room for months or years, I could get seriously ill. Our bodies are resilient enough to handle small doses of foreign objects. Receiving two shots of the Pfizer vaccine can be easily handled by our bodies. If they do not cause damage in the short term (which they don’t), our bodies will process it, then expel what was the vaccine with no harm done.

To those concerned about the morality of receiving the vaccine: I understand the ethical concern raised by fellow pro-life Catholics that the Pfizer vaccine has used HEK-293 cells (cloned from a 1972 abortion in the Netherlands) in research. The Pfizer vaccine has the most remote connection to this in that the cells were not used in production. Both the CDF and the USCCB have stated it is morally permissible to obtain the COVID-19 vaccines due to the lack of a morally perfect vaccine and the need for public health. In addition, it is unknown whether the fetus used to clone HEK-293 cells had passed due to an elective abortion. Therefore, there is not a clear cooperation with an evil act. This, along with the fact that the cells have been cloned over decades, the remoteness of their relationship with the vaccine, and the approval of the Catholic Church, does not give me any concern about the morality of the vaccine. Getting vaccinated is considered an act of charity for others, and if you still elect not to receive the vaccine under moral grounds, you are still ethically obligated to follow guidelines on physical distancing and mask-wearing until cases disappear. Between these choices and the reasoning above, I elect to receive the vaccine.

To those concerned that the government, the media and/or public health experts are lying about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness: There just simply isn’t any evidence that supports these claims or any wild conspiracies such as the vaccine causing sterility. If there is, I sure would like to see it, but I doubt its existence. As a Catholic, I have faith in God who created mankind in His image. God made us good with an inherent desire to seek goodness and the truth. Of course evil exists, and mankind has committed horrendous acts of evil against others, but that is not our true nature. We strive for what is good, and I have faith in the countless women and men who have dedicated their time and talent in making a vaccine for the common good. Having the opposite attitude and believing every single doctor or scientist is out to harm us without evidence is unbecoming of a Christian and is unsustainable for society.

To those who don’t feel like getting the vaccine because Compton is too far of a walk: I appreciate your dedication to social isolation, but please, get out of bed and take a hike. It’s spring at Notre Dame. Enjoy the weather, get vaccinated and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

This pandemic has impacted everyone. Loved ones have died. People have lost jobs, homes, livelihoods and opportunities. The suffering needs to end, and there’s two possible routes: continue what we are doing or get vaccinated. The former has no sign of bringing about an end to this, but the latter does. Get the vaccine, not just for your sake, but for everyone.

Thomas Howe 


April 8

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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