This semester, the numbers of unique COVID-19 cases per day at both Brandeis and in the United States are higher than they were last semester. Counterintuitively, we are also experiencing a high level of COVID-19 fatigue, leading many individuals to not care as much about spreading the virus. Picture this: a friend that you haven’t seen in person in what feels like ages asks you to hang out to watch a movie, and you almost feel pressured into it even if you’re a little bit uncomfortable at first. We get it, it’s difficult to avoid the temptation. However, it’s small acts like these that can lead to infection and potentially spreading the virus to even more of your friends and family.
Unfortunately, it feels like COVID-19 is becoming normalized, and for most people, there is no longer that threat and that passion to resist the urge to go out with your friends for the greater good. This is, at least in part, a reason why COVID-19 fatigue is at unprecedented levels. People are holding doors for one another again. The lines at the testing sites and the dining halls are becoming claustrophobic and long. Folks are getting tired of sticking to the floor stickers. We urge you to revitalize your passion for the safety of those around you.
In recent weeks, some members of the Brandeis community have been vaccinated; however, it is not currently known whether these vaccines prevent individuals from transmitting COVID-19 to others or what other lasting effects the vaccine may have. Although it may be tempting to simply say that you are vaccinated and that you no longer need to worry about the virus, there are currently no studies out there to support that mindset.
Parents and grandparents, who often get the news through various media outlets on the TV, often point out that there are many things going wrong with the vaccine and vaccine distribution, ranging from allergic reactions to the destruction of vaccines. This discourages them from wanting to get their vaccine dose when it does eventually become available to them. While we can see the chain of reasoning, it’s important to keep in mind that these media outlets will generally report on these head-turning events: even if the allergic reactions are extremely rare (about one in 100,000), there will usually be a report on it because the headline will sell. When faced with empirical evidence such as this allergic reaction, it’s not only important to look at the evidence that is there but to also ask the question “what evidence is not here?”
With all of this being said, when the vaccine comes out, we urge you to do your due diligence and do your own research in regards to whether the vaccine is safe and come up with your own conclusion about whether you should get the vaccine or not. While there are significant arguments on the contrary, it’s particularly important to consider the scientific benefits of vaccines and herd immunity. It is simultaneously advantageous for us to be skeptical of sensationalized claims of this vaccine’s potential ineffectiveness so as not to fall into the traps of a growing movement against the scientific community and vaccinations. Just as we should all be wary of a vaccine that has been created and tested within only a year, we should be equally wary of the “scientific” doubts made using no scientific or medical facts at all.
In the meantime, since most college-aged people are not yet eligible for the vaccine, be sure to follow both Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and those set by Brandeis, which includes continuing to practice social distancing, wearing masks and limiting social gathering. And while university policy does not require double masking, new guidelines from the CDC have stated that double masking with a surgical and cloth mask can help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by 96.5 percent. We can still slow down the spread of the coronavirus even without a vaccine.
Do your part to stop the spread.