By Alexis Smith

Alexis Smith; Courtesy of Author

The past few months have been incredibly stressful, not only on a local and national level but around the globe. I do not believe we, as a nation, were genuinely prepared for the magnitude of destruction COVID-19 could cause. Like many other citizens, I did not think when the country “shut-down” in March that we would continue to have this level of restrictions in place heading into the holiday season. Nonetheless, I kept my distance, wore my mask, only left the house for essential activities, and have continued doing so since returning to work. 

There are still many unknowns regarding the coronavirus itself. Doctors continue studying potential long-term adverse effects, and clinical trials on the vaccine for COVID-19 are ongoing as the FDA prepares for a potentially expedited approval. Stricter standards have been proposed for this process to ensure safety, which could be the tipping point in public perception. The political interference in its development is not reassuring, with the nation’s political figures and medical experts at odds on the proposed release timeline. In a society that already struggles with compliance for a vaccination with evidence supporting its benefits, I am concerned that many will not be willing to expose themselves to the new vaccine.

And, heading into flu season I’ve heard conflicting opinions from friends and colleagues about the pending SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, on top of the increased push for the flu vaccine. 

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic does not put the flu season on hold. However, some argue the extra precautions taken in social distancing and facial covering for coronavirus could aid in minimal flu cases. Countries across the Southern Hemisphere with an early flu season saw dramatic decreases in flu cases this past year. Whether this was from an actual reduction in disease transmission or those with mild symptoms not going out to receive medical attention due to the coronavirus, cannot be determined. Nonetheless, receiving the flu vaccine is being stressed harder than ever in the U.S., so hospitals are not thrust further into overcapacity between the two illnesses. The CDC has struggled for years to improve public perception of receiving and maintaining their flu vaccination, and I do not see this opinion improving. 

Prior to the recent announcement of impending FDA approval, I was reluctant to subject myself to an experimental drug. The policies set in place by the FDA are regulated for a reason, even within an expedited process. Having political officials dictate healthcare is unethical. The United States was the first country to reach 1 million cases at the end of April and has remained at the top of the list for confirmed cases and deaths. 

As a young professional in the healthcare field, I believe in science and following the necessary steps before placing a product on the market for mass consumption. I chose to dedicate my life to helping people regardless of their beliefs, and politicizing a vaccine when the country is increasingly divided is not beneficial to anyone. 

This is not a bi-partisan issue. 

The current administration’s policy of making promises without heeding the recommendations of those whose job it is to keep the country healthy is counterproductive to slow down this pandemic. Let the medical advice come from scientists and medical experts who actually care about our country’s health, and know how to respond to it. 

I am comforted and encouraged by the new administration’s willingness to support the medical experts. Stay Safe – wear a mask. 

Alexis Smith, a graduate of Ohio State University, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Exercise Science at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

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