Journal article Open Access

COVID-19 vaccines: history of the pandemic's great scientific success & flawed policy implementation

Vinay Prasad

The COVID-19 vaccine has been a miraculous, life-saving advance, offering staggering efficacy in adults, and developed with astonishing speed. The time from sequencing the virus to authorizing the first COVID-19 vaccine was so brisk even the optimists appear close-minded. Yet, simultaneously, United States’ COVID-19 vaccination roll-out and related policies have contained missed opportunities, blunders, run counter to evidence-based medicine, and revealed limitations in the judgment of public policymakers. How can a single intervention simultaneously represent one of our greatest pandemic successes but also encapsulate real limitations? Misplaced utilization, contradictory messaging, and poor deployment in those who would benefit most — the elderly and high-risk — alongside unrealistic messaging, exaggeration, and coercion in those who benefit least — young, healthy Americans — is at the heart. It is important to consider the history of COVID-19 vaccines to identify where we succeeded and where we failed, and the effects that these errors may have more broadly on vaccination hesitancy and routine childhood immunization programs in the decades to come.

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