As I write these words (in early December), it’s clear we’re in the midst of some of the “darkest days” of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, deaths and infection rates are all surging in our state and in our nation. Public health experts agree it will get worse before it gets better.
But better days are ahead. The last few weeks have brought renewed hope as we’ve received encouraging news about the development of new and effective vaccines.
We’ve been studying the vaccine development process closely. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long-standing practices and standards for approving vaccines and they have been clear about how safety standards are being applied and how the scientific principles of vaccine development are being followed. Recently, several former FDA commissioners (from Democratic and Republican administrations) came out in support of the work the FDA has been doing in following its safety protocols.
Work is well underway on addressing many of the logistical issues for administering the vaccines, including the timing of the distribution, who will go first and who might receive which version.
Accepting the Vaccine
But vaccine development is only half the battle. The other half is getting a vast majority of the people around the world to accept them. We cannot establish the level of “herd immunity” needed unless enough people receive a vaccine.
And make no mistake, a vaccine offers our best path for eliminating the virus, ending the suffering and starting the process of returning our lives back to some sense of normal. It’s our best path out of the darkness of today to the light of tomorrow.
Our healthcare workers have performed heroically. Our scientists have been amazing. It would dishonor them – and all those who have succumbed to COVID-19 – to let vaccine fear, mistrust and misinformation allow the pandemic to rage on. All of us have got to keep doing our part by washing our hands, watching our distance and wearing a mask – and by accepting the vaccine as soon as it’s our turn.
Until then, please stay safe … and let’s look for the light.
Curtis Barnett is President and CEO of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield.