Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of their effectiveness and safety, vaccine hesitancy is still prevalent in the United States. It is miraculous that we were able to develop multiple safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 so quickly; however, the speed with which they were developed may give some Americans pause, while it is important to emphasize that no safety shortcuts were taken and therefore reassure our constituents that they are safe and effective. Decades of research informed the development of these breakthrough vaccines, which time and time again have shown to be remarkably effective with incredibly low risk in millions of individuals.
There is consensus across the scientific community that all of the vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization are effective at protecting the public against COVID-19 infections, transmission, and serious illness.
Most importantly, they are safe.
Even among the rare cases of recipients who face adverse reactions, the side effects are typically minor, temporary, and easily addressed by health officials at vaccine sites. Reporting on possible side effects is a public service, but it is imperative to provide context to show how rare they really are, report on possible underlying conditions of the vaccine recipient, and balance those side effects against the overwhelming benefits individuals and communities receive as a result.
Warnings from health officials that fully vaccinated people should avoid indoor spaces and continue wearing masks may lead many to wonder whether getting vaccinated will get their lives “back to normal”.
As a doctor, veteran, and the former Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, I have an important part to play in dispelling rumors and encouraging my fellow Americans to become vaccinated. I have traveled to every county in Iowa’s Second Congressional District, touring health clinics, hospitals, and other vaccine sites. Since my medical license is still active, I was able to personally administer dozens of vaccines across the district. During these visits, I spoke with so many people who were excited to get their vaccines.
In Muscatine, Iowa, one gentleman mentioned that you could get your vaccine card laminated. That is how important these vaccines are. The way I see it, getting a vaccine is a ticket to freedom.
As Members of Congress, it is part of our duties to encourage our constituents to live safe and healthy lives and this includes encouraging them to get vaccinated against this novel coronavirus. In a recent survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, 23% of those surveyed said they are hesitant to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The science has repeatedly shown that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorized COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective, and given the millions who have been vaccinated, I urge the FDA to provide full authorization.
I strongly encourage every American to receive their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. This is how we get our lives back.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a resident of Ottumwa, is served as the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health from 2010-2014 and currently represents Iowa’s Second District in the United States House of Representatives.