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The Contested Case for Vaccinations: A student analyzes the data for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Since Jan. 2020, the CDC has recorded nearly 70 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S. alone. In just about two years, we’ve seen over 850 thousand deaths from the virus.

But at the same time, thanks to rapid research and testing, we’ve developed multiple vaccines to combat the pandemic. And the vaccine push has been largely successful: over 500 million doses have been administered, with over 75% of the population at least partially vaccinated.

For the elderly, vaccination rates are higher: nearly 90% of people 65+ are fully vaccinated, and another 5% have one dose. But the same is not true for younger generations. For 18-24 year olds, only 60% are fully vaccinated–still well over half, but substantially lower.

Why are young people so much less likely to be vaccinated? The answer is likely death rates. In the last two years, only 0.005% of people aged 15-24 have died from covid–under a tenth of a tenth of a single percentage point. By comparison, for every one 15-24 yr old who died from Covid, over 500 got in car crashes and 6 died. Additionally, the death rate from Covid was nearly identical to that of pneumonia alone (0.0047%).

Given the incredibly low risk that Covid presents for people under 24 (and even lower for teens and children), the vaccination rate is actually surprisingly high. But with many people yet undecided, whether to get the vaccine remains an important question. Five reasons are predominately given for getting the vaccine.

One: the vaccine helps your body fight covid, meaning it drops the fatality rate. In a clinical trial of over 43,000 participants, the Pfizer vaccine was shown to have “high efficacy (≥92%) … across age, sex, race, and ethnicity.” This is especially true for the elderly. But for people 24 and under, the odds of dying are already miniscule. The vaccine helps, but an already low mortality rate only has so far to drop.

Two: the vaccine will stop the spread of covid. This is a common argument for the vaccine. The idea is that even if you are not susceptible to covid, being vaccinated will help protect those around you. However, the CDC does not make this claim directly. They say that “vaccine breakthrough infections are expected,” though the vaccine is still “effective at preventing most infections.” The CDC director has even said that the vaccine “[can’t] prevent transmission.”

Three: even if you get covid, you are less likely to be hospitalized. The CDC says that vaccinated people “tend to [have] less severe symptoms than unvaccinated people.” Thus, in the event that an infection would otherwise be particularly severe, being vaccinated may help ease the strain on hospitals.

Four: vaccines are required for many jobs and attractions. Many museums and theaters, for example, require proof of vaccination, and thus being vaccinated is good simply because it provides opportunities. Admittedly, this argument is extremely circular, for it presumes that the vaccine requirements themselves are good. On the contrary, remaining unvaccinated may be a valid protest against such mandates. But nonetheless, with vaccination comes opportunity.

Five: the vaccine is good simply for the lack of a stronger counter argument. For many people, the risk posed by covid is incredibly low, but the risk of the vaccine is even lower. However, while there is certainly evidence that the vaccine works, there is also evidence of dangerous (and even fatal) side effects. And while the amount of testing and studies on the covid vaccine is simply incredible for the short timeframe, it is still just that: a short timeframe. Unlike other vaccines, there are no five or ten year studies on the long-term effects of the covid vaccine, simply because it is so new.

Even with all this data on the covid vaccine, there remains some uncertainty. Should you get the vaccine? Ultimately, the choice is yours. If even 0.005% is not worth the risk, then get the vaccine. But if your young age and the unanswered questions surrounding long-term effects leave you hesitant, then it is hard to justify the irreversible decision. Whatever your choice, make it a prudent one.

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