In response to the mounting horrific total of 62 million infections and 440,000 deaths worldwide caused by the novel coronavirus, several American pharmaceutical companies have begun hurriedly developing potential vaccines with the hope of potentially curing the disease.

As identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are five potential candidates for an operational coronavirus vaccine, including two from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

There is a general feeling of hope surrounding the potential vaccines, with the drugs said to be released in the Spring of 2021. President Donald Trump believes they could be ready as soon as next year.

"The whole world is suffering and we are rounding the curve," Trump said, according to Fox News. "And the vaccines are being delivered next week or the week after."

Some, however, have expressed outright skepticism towards the rushed progress of the vaccine and the president’s approval of it.

“If public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely,” said Vice President-elect Harris in her debate against current Vice President Pence. “But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I’m not taking it.”

While the vice president-elect’s skepticism is easy to understand, the fact of the matter is that most Americans can’t afford not taking any potential vaccines.

First and foremost, not a single one of us can claim to be immune to the coronavirus. While reinfections are rare, the only effective way that has been proven to reduce your risk of contracting the virus is – you guessed it – contracting the virus, hoping that your body will construct the correct antibodies needed to fight the disease in the future.

For those who would argue for “heard-immunity” after hearing that statement, the current statistics of 44 million recoveries and 1.42 million deaths worldwide mean there is a 1 in 32 chance of dying from the disease. This is the equivalent of walking into every other classroom in an average American high school and announcing that one of the students in the class has just been killed by the coronavirus.

Another point we must consider is that most Americans cannot afford the kind of health care that would allow them to be treated with medicine which would aid in their recovery from COVID in the place of a vaccine.

While she does not have the same access to the state-of-the-art facilities the President used when he was ill, Harris is worth a net sum of $6 million, putting her among the wealthiest citizens in the country. It is therefore easier for her to dismiss a vaccine developed by a political rival out of hand knowing she would have better access to first class medicine due to her wealth.

According to a study by Business Insider, lower-income Americans who have been forced to continue high-interaction jobs as restaurant workers and hairdressers are not only at a higher risk but are also less likely to be able to afford alternative treatment to the vaccine. Unlike the vice president-elect, their jobs cannot be easily performed with the recommended social distancing policies suggested by the CDC.

Most importantly, we must always look to act in ways that protect others. As someone who is currently in a 10 day quarantine after returning home from campus, I know that my decision to acquire whatever vaccine emerges will be based on protecting my parents, both of whom are isolating at home because they are in the high-risk category for contracting the virus. Even if I am willing to roll the 32 side die, I am not willing for my parents to do the same.

In the end, if a working vaccine emerges during the dying days of the Trump presidency – allowing a president who has so far belittled and downplayed the virus it would prevent to take the credit for its manufacture and distribution – so be it.

But the coronavirus is a human issue, not a political one, and if we want to do as the memes say and see an end to “Miss Rona’s World Tour”, then we know how to cancel our tickets. We know how to send her packing.

Red Kwenda is a staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @RedKwendaWriter. 

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